Posts Tagged Fire Chief Drew Smith

Prospect Heights Fire District news (more)

Excerpts from the

Prospect Heights area voters approved a tax hike Tuesday to help fund the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District.  The property tax hike is expected to cost the average taxpayer an extra $34 a year. With all 10 precincts reporting, the unofficial totals showed 1,219 voters said yes to the plan (59.5 percent), and 829 voters said no.

Fire Protection District officials say the increase is necessary to maintain current staffing levels, properly respond to service calls and replace emergency vehicles. Over the past five years, the fire protection district has cut about $500,000 in personnel to balance the budget, including reducing the number of administration positions to two from five.

The district receives about 92 percent of its revenues from property taxes, 7 percent from ambulance transportation fees, and 1 percent from miscellaneous sources.

The fire protection district also plans to replace three aging emergency vehicles over the next three years, including a ladder truck, pumper, and ambulance, as well as complete maintenance on the stations. 

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Prospect Heights Fire District news

Excerpts from the

The Prospect Heights Fire District has been expected to do more with less for a number of years. A falling property value base caused by the 2008 recession has necessitated the district’s request for a tax hike referendum.

The referendum question reads: “Shall the extension limitation under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District be increased from the lesser of 5% or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index over the prior levy year to 4% for the 2017 levy year? For the 2017 Levy Year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $11.49.”

According to Fire Chief Drew Smith’s numbers, with voter approval the average single-family home would pay an additional $34 per year in property taxes to the district. That would generate approximately $155,000. The additional funds would allow fire staffing levels to remain adequate and bolster a capital reserve fund for much needed equipment maintenance.

The fire district is it’s own taxing government separate from the City of Prospect Heights. In 2013, six positions in the department were eliminated through attrition. Spending cuts in 2015 eliminated a part-time position, and since 2017, a full-time deputy chief’s position and a full-time administrative assistant have gone unfilled as well as a part-time records clerk. The chief and a deputy chief are all that remains at the head of the department from 9 to 5 each day.

While expected larger revenue collections have remained nearly flat since 2008, the department has maintained a balanced budget without deficit spending. It continues to balance a small, full-time staff with a larger, part-time staff that does not require pension or benefit obligations. Fire officials have had to get creative with spending on vehicle upgrades, which has saved nearly $400,000 for taxpayers, rather than spending the huge amounts needed for brand new vehicles. Fire board members ruled out selling bonds and taking on new debt last year, so as not to ask more of taxpayers. While it has received $2 million in various grant funds since 2001, those are funds that cannot be counted on every year.

The amount the district can collect in property taxes remains flat, but costs for insurance, maintenance, and fuel continue to rise. Over 90% of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes. All-in-all, Smith says the district could use another $1 million for everything it needs, but asking that much of taxpayers could end up proving fruitless.

In 2017 the fire district responded to the highest number of calls in its history: 2,140. An aging yet growing population and newer, larger homes in the area seem to have stretched the department to its max.

Up until the early 1990s, Prospect Heights’ fire department was mainly all-volunteer. Today, in the middle of a burgeoning region of people and structures, it has morphed into a service that should be more in line with its neighboring departments. The Journal Topics support a properly-funded, reliable fire service in any town, and a yes vote for this referendum. Further cuts could greatly affect the people of Prospect Heights. Approximately $34 more per year, or about $3 per month, is a reasonable request.

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