Benton Harbor could lose its police department

By: Mark Peterson, Gabby Gonzalez Email
By: Mark Peterson, Gabby Gonzalez Email

The City of Benton Harbor is so broke that it may have to disband its police department.

The assessment came today from Emergency Financial Manager Joseph Harris. Earlier this month, voters rejected two millage renewal requests that accounted for more than $1 million in city tax revenue.

Harris said that if the city disbanded its police department it would be up to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department to provide protection.

Harris also discussed asking the electorate to reconsider the millage renewal request that voters turned down just a couple of weeks ago or possibility of having the city petition for bankruptcy.

A fourth option would have Harris imposing a Special Assessment type tax on real property in order to pay for public safety.

Harris said he would make his decision on which path to take over the “next few days.”

Benton Harbor commissioners met Monday night and passed a resolution stating that Harris alone should not be able to determine the city's fate. Mayor James Hightower said he plans to go to Lansing and get the state treasury involved.

"I think this has gone too deep," Hightower said. "It is above his pay grade to handle this."

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