CLEAR WATER (WQOW) – A $1.4 million referendum is on the ballots for Eau Claire in November. On Wednesday, officials took questions from the community.
The referendum will ask taxpayers to raise annual property taxes to fund local law enforcement.
Officials say they are in desperate need of funding because their officers are burnt out due to understaffing and increased calls. They say it is difficult to meet the needs of the community; the Eau Claire police and fire departments are both staffed well below state averages and say they are unhealthily reliant on overtime to provide basic public safety services.
Not only are emergency calls increasing due to population growth, but Police Chief Matt Rokus also said they require more resources.
“We handle more complex calls,” Rokus said. “Issues related to firearms, drugs, acute mental health crises. These situations take up more of our officers’ time, which impacts our ability to provide services.”
These complex appeals have led to the reduction of lower priority services such as car accidents on private property. Fire Chief Christian Bell said response times had increased by 12% since 2013 and were keeping their heads above water.
“We’re doing a great job right now, we’ve done literally everything we can to tighten our belts to maintain that. And we’re at a breaking point,” Bell said. “If we don’t get additional resources, we’re going to see significant increases in response times.”
Officials said they were looking for more feedback from the community. The next referendum meeting will be October 18 at the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library at 10 a.m. Click here for more information or to submit questions yourself.
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