Excerpts from the daily-journal.com

Last fall, the board of trustees for the Bourbonnais, Grant Park, and Limestone fire districts all approved measures for the March 17 primary ballot asking voters to raise the tax levy to the maximum amount allowed by law.

A state law increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 played a major role in all three districts’ decisions to seek additional funding. The wage increase would see each of the three districts paying wages of more than $200,000 per year. Firefighters working full time are paid $9 per hour, with paramedics earning $15. Volunteer firefighters currently receive a flat rate per call but that changes with the minimum wage increase to an hourly rate of $15.

Other mandates include the Federal Drug Administration’s requirement that fire departments replace their current cardiac monitors in ambulances. Bourbonnais has replaced monitors in two of their ambulances at a cost of $37,000. All three departments must replace ambulance stretchers that are 20 years old with electric models that can be operated by one person.

The number of volunteers is dwindling because of the amount of time needed to complete required training and certification. It takes six months (250 hours) to be certified as a firefighter and another six to become an EMT. Then after certification is received, personnel must complete mandatory training each year. Certification that at one time was good for life is being replaced by recertifications per the State Fire Marshal’s Office

For a median house in Bourbonnais valued at $100,000, the owners would see their tax bill go up to $283.33 per year, from $135.33. The Bourbonnais district covers 36 square miles and 36,000 people. Last year, they responded to 4,182 calls — the second-highest call volume in the county behind Kankakee with 6,756 calls. According to numbers run by accountants when researching whether or not to ask voters for a tax rate increase, the district would go in the red by 2021.

Their station is staffed 24/7 with seven people. The goal is to add three more to each shift. The district, which was formed in 1948, used a referendum in 1975 to start its ambulance service.

For a median house in Limestone Township valued at $172,800, the owners would see their bill go up 66 percent to $564 per year, from $338. The tax increase would expire in four years. This is the first time the district has had to seek such an increase since it was founded in 1951.

Currently, firefighters are paid $9 per hour and paramedics $12. In response to the minimum wage increases, they will each increase $1 per hour every year until 2025, when firefighters and paramedics will start at $15 and $18 per hour, respectively. Because of this, the board approved asking voters to approve a property tax increase.

For a median house in Grant Park valued at $180,000, the homeowner would see their bill increase 66 percent to $623 per year from $415. The additional $260,000 in revenue would allow the department to address  apparatus replacement, staffing, and equipment replacement. According to industry guidelines, fire apparatus should be replaced between 20 and 25 years. The average age of Grant Park’s fleet is 27 years. In the past three years, maintenance costs have become a bigger issue. On top of that, the department must replace all its air packs at a cost of $150,000.

Grant Park’s district covers more than 60 square miles and 5,000 people. They have been able to secure grant money to replace some equipment.

thanks Dennis