IRON RIVER—During a special meeting April 18, City Manager Perry Franzoi presented information to the Iron River City Council about possible budget and personnel cuts to the police department, along with other options to reduce spending from city’s general fund.
According to Franzoi, the city is spending money out of the general fund that is supposed to be a backup in case of an emergency.
He said he is looking at cuts to the Police Department because the department’s proposed budget is $646,400. The city only has $900,000 in property tax revenue, he said, so most of that is being spent on the police department.
“These are hard decisions,” he said. “I don’t like making these decisions, but it’s my job.”
Franzoi proposed a new police department budget of $346,200 instead of the $646,400, which would make up for the money being taken from the general fund. If the council approves the budget, two positions would be cut from the force, leaving the city with four officers.
“I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs,” he said. “Politically, it’s not a popular decision. Financially, I think it is a smart decision.”
The police department is not the only option, the maneger said. He is also researching lower health care costs for city employees.
Currently, there are 17 employees receiving health care, making a bill of $26,919 per month. “The city simply does not have the money to pay for these expenses,” Franzoi said.
Mayor Terri Tarsi made it clear to the public that the city is not disbanding the police department but may need to make cuts to save money, based on Franzoi’s reports.
“I did not get elected to cut police protection from the citizens,” he said.
An increase in millage is not an option because Iron River is already maxed out at 20 mills, which is all the state will allow, he said.
Tarsi also noted that Crystal Falls runs its police department with two officers.
Council Member Bill Larock said he does not want to cut police officers, but he is also concerned about the city’s financial stability if a decision is not made.
“Do I want to cut the police department? Absolutely not,” he said. “But facts are facts. What’s going to happen if we don’t do something and we go broke?”
He said he was unable to make a decision at this point based on the research of other options and the size of the decision. “My heart is for this community and I don’t want to do anything bad, but we’ve got to do something,” Larock said.
Council Member Mike Brozak said he doesn’t want to see less than 24-hour police protection but agrees that something has to be done financially.
Council Member Arthur Sacheck pointed out that all of the crime reported in Iron River is not necessarily by Iron River citizens and that the townships are included in those crimes.
“We have to do something. It doesn’t mean that we can’t come back from it, but we have to do something now,” he said.
Ed Marcell, another councilman, said the council is working on the situation and looking at all the options before making a decision.
Most citizens who spoke were against police department staff cuts, citing the number of crimes committed in the city. Many voiced fear for the safety of school children, the elderly and the hospital.
Josh Benson said that as a member of the younger generation, police staff cuts could make his generation feel unsafe and decide to move to another area.
A smaller police department at a time when drug use and the crime rate are rising, he said, makes him feel unsure about sending his daughter to school when she is old enough. “It just doesn’t have a good feeling.”
Melissa Powell, Iron County prosecuting attorney, asked the city to not rush into any decisions. She said Iron River has the highest crime rate of any jurisdiction in the county.
No action was taken at the special meeting.