Excerpts from the NWHerald.com:

The Wonder Lake Fire Protection District is asking voters to approve a referendum March 17 election ballot increasing its property tax levy. An average homeowner with a $100,000 home currently pays $153 in taxes to the Wonder Lake Fire Protection District. If the referendum is successful, that would go up by $33, so the homeowner would pay $186. The amount of taxes currently able to be levied for the fire district is $963,994. The amount the WLFPD is asking for is $1,152,054.

One of the reasons this increase is needed is because the department is dealing with a 52 percent increase in general and workers compensation insurance. These are based on the pay of the worker, and will increase significantly when minimum wage becomes $15 an hour. The minimum wage increased this year, and per state law, will continue to go up until 2025, when it hits that $15 mark. With the current tax rate, the fire district’s budget will be consumed by payroll, leaving them with a deficit for operations.

Calls to the fire protection district have gone up by 43 percent over the past 19 years. Having only three members causes the fire district to have jump crew. If there’s a call for an ambulance, all three go to the ambulance call, and if there’s a fire call, all three go to the fire call.  If people are waiting for an ambulance or fire truck to come from McHenry or Richmond, that could mean a 12- to 15-minute wait.

In addition, the district’s equipment is aging. One of their front line engines is 26 years old. Engines made now are safer in the event of a rollover and have more protection for the people in the vehicles. With newer equipment, maintenance on the vehicles would go down, and the district could stop putting more money it can’t afford into these engines.

If the referendum gets approved, the fire district won’t actually see any additional money for a year, but after that year they would put a bid out for a new engine. If this referendum is not approved, it could mean potentially lowering the on-duty personnel.

There have been things the fire district has done to lower costs for the community, such as applying for state grants. In addition, they have minimized their command staff by not replacing people when they resigned.