CALEDONIA— Residents will have the opportunity to vote on a Public Safety Referendum in Wisconsin’s Spring Primary election on April 4.
Village voters are to consider an increase in the tax levy to fund additional full-time fire and police staff.
The referendum is on the ballot due to insufficient funding and hopes to meet the current, growing and projected necessary public safety needs of the Caledonia community.
On the ballot
The referendum will ask voters if they are in favor, or not in favor, of supporting the implementation of six additional firefighters/paramedics, eight additional police officers, and the personal protective equipment those staff members require.
The referendum question will appear on the April 4 ballot as follows:
“Under state law, the increase in the levy of the Village of Caledonia for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2024, is limited to 1.96%, which results in a levy of $17,497,645. Shall the Village of Caledonia be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2024, for the purpose of hiring and retaining additional sworn police officers and fire and rescue personnel, by a total of 10.179%, which results in a levy of $19,278,645, and on an ongoing basis, include the increase of $1,781,000 for each fiscal year going forward?”
The Village Board and administration determined that an increase to the tax levy is the best available option to increase funding and meet community public safety needs.
“The Village of Caledonia has seen an increase in demand for public safety services while our current funding sources and staffing are stagnant or decreasing – putting additional strain on our fire and police staff,” said Caledonia Village Administrator Kathy Kasper. “We need additional staff to maintain the level of service Caledonia residents expect and deserve.”
Caledonia Police staffing needs
Caledonia Police Department’s staffing levels are currently too low to enable officers to effectively patrol the large geographic area of the Village. When compared to peer communities the Caledonia Police Department ranks last in officers per square mile and officers per 1,000 population.
Fire department staffing needs
Between 2015-2021, the Caledonia Fire Department’s calls for service increased by 56% while staffing has not kept pace. Increasing calls for service to the Caledonia Fire Department are a primary driver for additional funding support.
This included a 101% increase in advanced life support and a 202% increase in geriatric/disabled calls.
In 2023, Caledonia will lose three firefighters/paramedics as a result of the federal “SAFER” grant funding running out.
If not approved, the fire department will have fewer staff in 2023 and beyond than it did in 2022.
If the referendum is approved, the addition of eight police officers would enable the Caledonia Police Department to meet calls for service demands, have a greater presence in the community, and increase the quality of service by conducting additional investigative activities and following up on open cases, including increasingly complex cases.
Officers with the Caledonia Police Department per square mile would still remain at the lowest rate compared to peer communities, but officers per 1,000 of the population would be more consistent.
If the referendum passes, the Fire Department’s minimum staffing would increase from 10 to 13 firefighters/paramedics per shift, enabling a second ambulance to be available at Station 12 at all times – which has the greatest call volume in the Village.
If the referendum passes, three of the newly funded firefighters/paramedics would replace the three positions being lost as a result of the end of the grant.
Increases in the village
If the referendum is approved this would result in a property tax increase per $100,000 of the assessed value of an estimated $57 annually, or about $1.10 per week. The impact to a property valued at $300,000 would be $171. annually, or about $3.30 per week.
If Village residents approve the referendum, the 2023 tax levy would increase by approximately $1,781,000 to cover the cost of six firefighters/paramedics, eight police officers, and personal protective equipment those staff members require beginning with bills issued in December 2023.
For more information, please visit caledonia-wi.gov/referendum or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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