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Posted on: October 4, 2017

Regionalization of Dispatch Services

In the last nine years, since the current administration has been in office, the Pittsfield Township budget has had to weather the tsunami of the great recession. When those steep declines in revenues from property taxes are combined with the fact that the CPI has been at historical lows in the recovery period of the last few years, our revenues have flat-lined, despite the fact that our assessed values have been increasing at a healthy rate of about 4-6%. The reason assessed values are increasing, of course, is because of our expanding economic base as residential, commercial, retail redevelops/expands in our community. The reason we have not had equivalent increases in our revenues is because the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A cap what local governments can retain. As such, while general fund revenues increased, in Pittsfield Township, by an average of 8% over the nine year period of 2000-2008, they increased by only 1% in the last nine years (2009-2017). In other words, our revenues have flat-lined!

We have remained the only community in Washtenaw County to have gone through the deep recession without undertaking any lay-offs. However, after experiencing revenue flat-lining and increasing expenditures to meet the needs of our growing community we were faced with the absolute need to eliminate a significant cost center without compromising quality of services. While we have, in the last nine years, established tremendous regional partnerships and acquired a historic $15.5 million in grants to establish and promote quality of life initiatives/projects, the framework for the delivery of public safety services has remained static. As such, we reviewed the potential of partnership with the Metro Dispatch services at the Washtenaw County Sherriff’s, which provides dispatch services to about 70% of the communities, including Cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, in Washtenaw County (90% with the inclusion of Pittsfield Township). They have perfected a model of regional dispatch services, over the past 8-9 years, which provides high quality dispatch services.
After obtaining – and, since then, finalizing – assurances of employment for Pittsfield Township’s dispatch staff that would be displaced, the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees gave authority to the Director of Public Safety to proceed with regionalizing dispatch, contingent on public input. Director Harshberger conducted public forums in August and September to do the same and obtained positive feedback from Pittsfield residents on the proposal to regionalize dispatch services and move them to Metro Dispatch (for police calls) and HVA (for fire calls).

What does all this mean for Pittsfield Township residents? Effectively, the transition should be transparent and seamless to all residents, as emergency 911 calls will still be answered immediately. With major improvements in emergency communications being implemented in Washtenaw County, the issue of where a E-911 call goes is more or less a moot issue. The fact that calls will be answered and responded to in a timely manner is the important issue, along with the fact that regional dispatch can make connections as calls come in from various jurisdictions thereby helping law enforcement do their jobs more efficiently.
The FY 2018 Pittsfield Township budget continues its commitment to transfer about half of its General Fund revenues, specifically $6 million, to the Public Safety fund. As such, the Board of Trustees remains committed to supporting provision of the highest quality services to our community. The aim of the regionalization of dispatch services is to: (a) Be fiscally responsible; (b) Direct scarce resources to maximize direct services through police patrols, adequate fire personnel, and front-desk coverage for non-emergency calls from 8:00am – 8:00 pm, M-F.

Pittsfield Township has received a plethora of awards and recognitions for its fiscal stewardship and as we continue to struggle with expanding revenue streams to local units, we have to make tough decisions. The proposal to regionalize dispatch services, approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees in September, not only keeps up our track record of being fiscally responsible but does so without compromising quality of services. 

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