Benton Harbor residents discuss special assessment - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor residents discuss special assessment

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We told you a few weeks ago, residents voted down a millage renewal during the last election, which is a loss of $1.4 million dollars for Benton Harbor.

Now, Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris, is looking at drastic measures to get the city out of debt.

Two of them are getting rid of the police department or filing for bankruptcy.

For now, he's opting for a possible special assessment to strictly pay for public safety instead.

He held a public input meeting Tuesday to hear what residents had to say.

Benton Harbor police officers respond to 13,000 calls a year for the four square mile area.

People at the meeting agreed, the police department needs to stay.  

"We're all in the same boat, and if the boat sinks, we all sink on it. Let's keep the boat from sinking," says Maurice Burden who spoke for his parents who live in Benton Harbor.

Emergency Manager Joseph Harris says the special assessment can be reduced or terminated if money comes in from elsewhere.

Agreeing to pay for public safety doesn't mean residents are excited about the special assessment.

"Why now that we're having this type of quorum after the election. This should have been done before the election so that everybody would have known what was really going on," a resident said.

There is a lot of push back from residents who don't like the work Harris has been doing.

They want more transparency and other ideas for making money for the city.

"We don't need to just stop here with special assessment, let's start counting our money. Are we making money on a 4 hundred million dollar golf course?" asks resident Sam Hudson.

So just how much money are we talking?

The special assessment would be $7.50 for every thousand dollars of property.

Basically, if you have a house worth $100,000, you'll be paying $750 a year.

Keep in mind, residents just voted down the millage renewal, so they won't be paying that.

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