Posts Tagged voters reject increased tax levy for the Fox River and 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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