Posts Tagged Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District

Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District officials have been wrestling with funding solutions since their most recent attempt at a tax hike failed last month. On Monday, the board settled on a cost-saving option that would cut three part-time firefighter positions and allow both fire stations to remain open.

Eliminating one staff position per shift would result in a roughly $142,500 annual savings to hold over the cash-strapped fire district for the next several months. Fire officials intend to ask voters again in November for a property tax hike, which Chief John Nixon says is the most sustainable way to address the district’s funding shortage.

With the staffing cuts, which were unanimously approved by the board, one station would maintain current staffing levels. The other would be staffed with three firefighters who will go out on calls together leaving that station unmanned. Though not ideal, trustees said the measure prevents the district from having to close one station on an alternating basis, as had been previously considered.

The district was hoping to fund capital expenses, as well as increased personnel costs, by raising its property tax to 43 cents from 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. The measure would have generated an additional $1.48 million annually, but voters last month shot down the district’s request by roughly 30 votes. If a tax increase fails again in November, Nixon said the district will have no choice but to cut more positions and brown out one of its two stations. That would significantly increase response times for half the district.

The district also is considering other cost-saving options and one-time revenue sources, such as selling used equipment or selling land initially slated for building another fire station.

Attorney Ken Shepro said a group of residents has filed a request for a discovery phase in Kane and DuPage counties regarding the March election. In that process, county officials would check for errors that could be corrected for future elections, Those residents are also likely to try challenging the results of the referendum, as a portion of the question was cut off the ballot. Successfully contesting the vote won’t change the outcome, but it would allow the fire district to place the same question on the November ballot.

thanks Dan

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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

Fox River & Countryside officials are mulling over temporary fixes for filling the fire/rescue district’s depleting coffers after its most recent attempt to bring in more cash failed. But Chief John Nixon told the fire board Monday there’s only one sustainable solution for addressing the funding shortage: a property tax hike.

Voters last month narrowly rejected the district’s request to increase its property tax rate to 43 cents from 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. The measure would have generated about $1.48 million annually to fund critical equipment replacements and repairs, as well as increased personnel.

Without that money, officials have warned that the district likely would have to cut nine part-time firefighter positions and rotate closing one of its two fire stations each month. But during a special meeting Monday, Nixon urged the fire board to keep both stations open and find other ways to tighten its belt until the November election, when he expects the district to try again for a tax hike.

Browning out one station on a rotating basis would significantly increase emergency response times for half the district at any given time. It can take up to 16 minutes for first responders firefighters to get from one station to the other side of the 38-square-mile district.

Nixon said he’d bring back suggestions for cutting costs or implementing one-time revenues, such as selling equipment, to temporarily address the funding shortfall … the district also could consider selling land that has been slated for a new fire station, though the board president said he’d prefer to keep that property as a long-term option. The fire board is expected to discuss and possibly make a decision on potential short-term solutions next Monday.

Meanwhile, a group of residents already has begun planning an education campaign to support the district if another referendum question is placed on the November ballot. Out of four attempts in recent years, the district’s most recent request for a property tax hike failed by the slimmest margin: 32 votes.

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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

After a request for a property tax hike narrowly failed Tuesday, Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District officials again are faced with determining how to continue operating with what they say is insufficient funding.  This was the fourth time in recent years voters rejected the district’s request for a property tax increase. In addition to being the lowest tax hike requested, unofficial tallies show the measure also failed by the slimmest margin — a 1,943-1,904 vote.

The binding referendum asked for a 60 percent increase in the taxes paid to the fire district to fund equipment replacements, as well as pay raises for emergency personnel. If the measure was approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would have paid an additional $53 per year.

The election results are unofficial until they are canvassed in the coming weeks. With such a razor thin margin, Handley said the district won’t make any decisions until vote totals are verified.

The district has warned residents of its most probable plan of action, which would include cutting up to nine firefighter positions and rotating the closure of one of its two stations every day. Fire board President Bob Handley said Wednesday nothing will be decided until the board has a chance to evaluate all cost-cutting options at its meeting next month.

“(Browning) out a station … is the last thing we want to do because it’s going to increase our response times considerably,” Handley said. “But that’s probably going to be what happens. I don’t know if there are any other alternatives.”

Fire officials for years have been debating how best to serve their 25,000 residents while operating on the lowest tax rate in the area — 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. After its last attempt at a tax hike, the district cut several employees and started considering the possibility of outsourcing its services or dissolving, which would require voter approval.

The cash-strapped district is running out of options, Handley said, but he believes residents are starting to catch on to the severity of the issue. Whether the district will try again for a tax hike in November has yet to be determined.

“It’s encouraging that the more we get publicity out there, the more favorable the results become,” he said. “As soon as people hear our message, they understand.”

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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the kcchronicle.com:

In its fifth attempt to pass a referendum, the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District is seeking voter approval in the March 20 primary election of a 16-cent increase that would hike the fire district’s current rate to 43 cents from 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, providing about $1 million more per year to the agency. If it does not pass, fire officials said the district will be forced to rotate closure of its two stations in order to save money.

The district covers 38 square miles and serves about 25,000 residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships in Kane and DuPage counties.

During the last election cycle in 2017, when the public voted down the tax increase, Doreen Anderson didn’t vote. But these days, she has a vote yes sign in her yard.  

Wayne resident Michael Schulz said he will vote no again, that the district threatened to close stations in the last two failed referendum requests.  “Not anything has changed,” Schulz said. “This referendum is the fire district just trying another tactic in order to persuade taxpayers to pony up their hard-earned income to make up for their sins and mistakes from the very start of putting together this fire district.”

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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

With a mission to close what trustees view as an information gap, the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District will host a public meeting Wednesday to form what officials hope will be a critical mass of public support for a March tax increase.

The previous three attempts to get residents to support equipment replacement and emergency responder firefighter pay increases failed.

With each question the margin of defeat shrank. More than 60 percent of voters turned back the district’s request for a 95 percent tax increase last April. District President Bob Handley said the improved referendum results stem from an increasing number of residents learning they’ve been getting a bargain on fire and ambulance service for years.

At 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation, the percentage of the property tax bill the district represents is just above the township cemetery district. The district is unaware of another fire district in northern Illinois with a lower tax rate. That’s great for taxpayers. It hasn’t been great for the district’s equipment or staff.

The district fields more calls (1,345 in 2016) than officials anticipated when breaking away from St. Charles. That’s caused more wear and tear on equipment, much of it purchased used. And the staff is in a continuous state of training thanks to rampant turnover.

“Our pay scale … to say it’s subpar would be an understatement,” Handley said. “They love to come and get trained here. But they’d be foolish to stay once they get an offer with a full-time department.”

District officials cut 10 employees after the failed April tax increase. The district has two stations, but can only afford to keep one station open at a time without more money. The planned brownouts will mean nine firefighters will lose their jobs. Residents might also experience longer response times depending upon which station they are closest to and if it is in operation when their emergency occurs.

The district has not had a tax rate increase in 12 years. A successful March referendum would increase the tax rate to 44 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. That’s an increase of about $216 for the owner of a $400,000 home.

thanks Dan

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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District news

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District trustees will host a familiar discussion Monday about asking taxpayers for more money to run the district. This time they are hoping to get input from the community before the counting of the final ballots.

“It is all but assured” trustees will vote Monday to seek another referendum on a tax increase, Ken Shepro, the district’s attorney, said. Trustees want community members to attend the meeting to tell them how much of a hike they would support. Voters rejected the district’s tax increase referendums in 2015 and 2017.

Current funds to pay staff and replace equipment are inadequate, officials said. The most recent referendum would have raised property tax bills paid to the district by 95 percent. More than 60 percent of voters in the district rejected that request.

The failure last spring fueled conversations about selling off the district’s fire service or dissolving the district. Shepro said trustees rejected both ideas. There is not a clear process to dissolve the district even if trustees wanted to, he said. And there’s no evidence any fire district has ever voluntarily disbanded in Illinois. So trustees return to the topic of how much of a tax increase they need versus how much voters will approve.

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

Taxpayers receiving fire and ambulance service from the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District may soon see their emergency needs sold off to the lowest bidder.

District officials recently discussed how to address the bare coffers used to pay the staff and buy and maintain equipment. A failed tax increase request in April left few options. Problems collecting money the Kane County jail owes the district are adding to the financial pressures.

One option is to attempt another tax increase request. The April question to voters would have nearly doubled the amount of taxes flowing into the district — which receives $2.43 million per year — but more than 60 percent of the voters said no.

With that poor track record, Ken Shepro, the district’s attorney, said officials would consider requesting proposals from neighboring fire districts to cover all or part of the service area.

Every neighboring fire service charges more than double what the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District does for fire and ambulance assistance. The hope is creating competition for the service area may at least see some lowering of prices.

Another option would be to maintain ambulance operations and contract with a neighboring district for fire calls. It’s not clear if such a deal would be attractive to any other provider. Fire calls account for less than one-sixth of the volume of ambulance requests in the district.

Yet another option would involve returning to what worked in the past — getting fire and ambulance service from St. Charles. The district divorced itself from the city several years ago over a price dispute. The city owns land on Red Gate Road intended for the construction of a new firehouse that would have catered mainly to Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District customers.

Fire district officials will try to collect debts already owed to help pay bills. Shepro said the district made $180,000 in emergency calls to the county jail last year. It collected about $1,000 of that total.

The county contracts with a private company for medical service at the jail. In an emergency situation, that provider calls the fire district. Shepro said the provider sends the bills for the ambulance rides to the inmates.

“Interestingly enough, most of the inmates don’t pay,” Shepro said. “The fact is that the people liable for the service bill are the people who call for the service. That’s certainly the county’s medical provider and maybe the county as well.”

District officials will reach out to Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer and the county board members who represent the area the fire district serves for help in making good on the debt.

“Our residents are basically subsidizing everyone who needs an ambulance at the jail,” Shepro said.

The $180,000 represents about 8 percent of the district’s annual budget.

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the Kane-Chronicle.com:

Voters defeated the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District’s second attempt at a rate increase with 1,451 no votes to 935 yes votes, a difference of 516 votes, according to unofficial results in Kane and DuPage counties the night of the April 4 consolidated election.

The district sought an increase to nearly 53 cents, up from 27 cents, per $100 of equalized assessed value. The new rate would have boosted its levy to nearly $5 million and would have helped replace an aging fleet and equipment, provide for adequate staffing, and reduce its debt.

As this is the second failure – a similar request in 2015 was defeated – district officials will have to consider being dissolved and the area it serves divided among other fire districts.

The district covers 38 square miles and serves about 25,000 residents in Campton Hills, Wayne, and St. Charles townships.

Fire district attorney Kenneth Shepro said the board faces some tough choices.

“The board will have to take a hard look at the available options,” Shepro said. “The dilemma remains that there is not enough money to buy new equipment and sustain existing staffing levels – something has got to give. I think the board will have all options on the table.”

Still, Shepro said he preferred to think of the current defeat as nearly doubling its support from the previous failed referendum.

“In our journey of a thousand miles, we went from 25 percent to 40 percent in support … with a turnout of a thousand fewer voters,” Shepro said. “We improved by over a thousand votes.”

thanks Dennis

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the kanecountychronicle.com:

Officials from the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District are hopeful that voters will approve a tax increase referendum in the April 4 consolidated election.

The district is seeking an increase to nearly 53 cents up from 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. The new rate would boost its levy to nearly $5 million.

The money will help replace its aging fleet and equipment, provide for adequate staffing and reduce its debt.

Based on feedback, fire board President Bob Handley said things are looking brighter for the referendum to pass, as opposed to a similar request in 2015, which voters rejected.

The district covers 38 square miles and serves about 25,000 residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships in Kane and DuPage counties.

If the referendum fails this time, the district risks being dissolved, and the area it serves would be divided among other fire districts. The Elburn & Countryside Fire Protection District, for example, has a rate of .749 – or nearly 75 cents – per $100 EAV.

One district resident, Michael Schulz of Wayne, who voted no in 2015, said he will vote no again and welcomes paying more taxes to be in another district.

“I agree that taxes would likely go up,” Schulz said. “That would put me in a fire district that is well established, well managed, has a good operational history and is not staffed by transient employees … .”

Schulz said the high rate of turnover in the Fox River district is because career firefighter/paramedics see it as a stepping stone to more established fire districts that pay more.

“I don’t have any faith in the board,” Schulz said. “You get what you pay for. I am wiling to pay whatever it takes to get a good, solid, stable district for my house.”

Schulz said the higher tax rates of other districts would be lowered by the impact of adding more properties into their districts.

Campton Township resident Dick Johansen said he voted no last time but plans to vote yes this time.

“The reason I’m in favor of this now is the question is quite clearly stated on the ballot, not like last time,” Johansen said. “Other surrounding fire districts are higher by a huge amount. It’s a case of paying a little bit now or a huge amount later.”

The potential change represents a property tax increase of $86 a year for a house with a fair market value of $100,000; $172 for a house valued at $200,000; or $258 for a house valued at $300,000.

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

If Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District’s upcoming referendum question seeking to increase the property tax levy by 95 percent fails, Fire Chief John Nixon said the fire district would likely fold within two years.

“It would be a slow and painful death,” Nixon said. “I wouldn’t give it more than two years.”

If the fire district closed, the State Fire Marshal would be responsible for dividing up its coverage area to neighboring fire districts. It would mean residents within the fire district would see emergency response time increase by 12 to 15 minutes, he said.

“It is not in our nature to be intimidating or threatening,” Nixon said. “We have to show people the facts and you can draw your own conclusions.”

Nixon outlined the district’s finances and the referendum question on the April 4 ballot at a town hall meeting Monday. The meeting was for informational purposes and neither Nixon nor the board could take a stand.

The referendum question asks should the property tax levy be increased from the lesser of 5 percent or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index over the prior levy year to 95 percent per year for the 2017 levy year.

A property owner with a home valued at $300,000 would pay an additional $300 a year, Nixon said. If approved, the referendum would generate an increase of $2.5 million.

Compared to neighboring fire district, Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District would continue to have the lowest tax rate, he said. As a fire protection district, it only has one source of revenue: property taxes.

The fire district does not have any money set aside for a capital asset replacement fund and has aging equipment. Equipment such as life packs are becoming obsolete and need to be replaced. A single life pack costs $40,000 and the they have five. There is not $200,000 to replace that equipment.

District officials said the plan is to use the money generated from the referendum for a capital asset replacement fund, personnel, and equipment.

Currently, the fire district has two firefighters per engine. Fire safety standards recommend four. There should be two paramedics per ambulance call, however the fire district operates with one paramedic and one EMT.

The fire district handles calls within a 38 square mile area. Twenty seven percent of the calls are overlapping, meaning firefighters need to rely on mutual aid.

“This is a plan, it is a responsible plan,” Nixon said. “It presents a model for sustaining (the district). Our goal is a sustainable operation for the fire and ambulance service for years to come. Every dollar is accountable to you, the taxpayers.”

The fire district has been doing a social media campaign and has a website dedicated to the referendum. There is another town hall meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 13 at the Campton Township Community Center, 5N082 Old LaFox Road.

thanks Dan & Scott

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District news (more)

From the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District website:

The Board of Trustees of the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District have called for a special meeting on Monday March 6, 2017 at 630 pm. The meeting will be held as a Town Hall session focused on providing the district residents with information and facts about the pending referendum ballot question seeking an increase in the fire district tax levy. The goal of this meeting is to help residents understand the current condition of their fire department and exactly why this request is so important. Information provided will include important financial information about the fire district budget, the condition of the apparatus fleet and equipment and also an understanding of the department capabilities with regard to current staffing. In addition, residents will be able to compare the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District levy against its neighboring fire agencies and how your fire district rating affects your homeowners insurance. Please attend this important meeting and bring a neighbor along with your questions and concerns. This Town Hall Meeting will be hosted at Fire Station 1, 34W500 Carl Lee Road

thanks Dan

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