Posts Tagged voters reject increased tax levy for the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District

Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

A binding referendum question on the April 2 ballot will seek a 63 percent increase in the taxes paid to the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. If approved the measure would put an additional $1.1 million in the district’s coffers each year to raise staffing levels and fund equipment replacements and repairs.

Voters have shot down six previous attempts by the district to raise the property tax rate in the last several years. The margin by which those measures failed has significantly narrowed since the district’s first request making officials hopeful for a more positive outcome this time around. The fire board found the March 2018 election especially promising given the fact that a proposed 60 percent increase failed by only 32 votes.

Public support and awareness grew during the November election season. With more than 9,000 people voting — at least three times larger than the district’s usual turnout — the referendum question lost by 342 votes.

If the tax hike passes, the district’s tax rate will increase from about 27 to 43 cents per $100 of taxable property value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $56 more per year.

In recent years, the district has eliminated firefighter positions and reduced costs while continuing to operate on what officials say is insufficient funding. The board decided to hold off on discussing additional budget cuts until after the April election.

“Our message remains the same,” Fire Chief John Nixon said. “We have equipment that’s failing, radios becoming a safety issue, vehicles that are costing extra money to maintain because they’re in many cases reaching the end of life, and staffing shortfalls that have created uncomfortable situations for us where we have to run short.”

The fire district plans to ask a citizen group for help talking to residents about the upcoming referendum question. Information about the proposal likely will be sent out through social media and in newsletters.

The district covers 38 square miles of unincorporated areas in St. Charles and Campton townships, as well as Campton Hills and Wayne.

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District news (more)

Excerpts from the dailyherald.com:

Six failed attempts at collecting more property tax revenue from residents have taken a toll on Fox River and Countryside fire officials. The cash-strapped district has been asking voters for years to raise its tax rate in hopes of increasing personnel levels and replacing aging equipment. At one point, the request even included a plan to build a third fire station at the center of the 38-square-mile district.

Instead, officials have had to cut firefighter positions and tighten their belts after voters rejected variations of the proposal time and time again. Their most recent request — a 60 percent hike — failed Nov. 6 by 342 votes. The margin by which the measure failed has narrowed significantly since the district’s first attempt, but the electorate also appeared to be completely different this time around. More than 9,000 votes were cast, compared to 2,000 in the spring.

Fire board members now plan to hold a special workshop to discuss how to continue operating on what they say is inadequate funding. Roughly 90 percent of the budget is funded by property taxes. At 27 cents per $100 of taxable property value, the district’s tax rate is one of the lowest in the area.

Reducing expenses, restructuring the district’s staffing model and seeking alternative coverage from other departments are among the options that could be considered. Trustees also are in the process of deciding what to do with a property at Bolcum and Crane roads, purchased years ago by the district as the intended site of a third station. After a referendum question failed in the spring, the board started looking into selling the property as a way to pad the district’s capital reserve fund. A recent appraisal determined the site is worth about $246,000. The nearby Fine Line Creative Arts Center has expressed interest in acquiring the site, but the nonprofit would first have to raise the money.

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District news (more)

Excerpts from the dailyherald.com:

The Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District’s request for a property tax increase has failed yet again. Voters have a history of denying the district’s attempts to bring in more cash, and Tuesday’s election was no different. A binding referendum question seeking a 60 percent tax rate increase was denied in a 4,695 to 4,353 vote, according to unofficial tallies. The measure was a do-over from the March election, when the tax increase was rejected by a roughly 30-vote margin.

The cash-strapped district was hoping to use the additional $1 million or more per year to replace aging equipment, make crucial vehicle repairs, and bring staffing up to safer levels.  The board already has cut several firefighter positions in the past two years, including three part-time posts in the spring. The reduced staffing levels have forced the district to occasionally brown-out one of its two stations.

Fire officials for years have been debating how best to serve the district’s 25,000 residents while operating on what they say is insufficient funding. In the past, they’ve even contemplated outsourcing services or dissolving the district.

The referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot asked to raise the district’s tax rate from 27 cents to 43 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. 

thanks Dan

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Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District news (more)

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

The Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District could be facing more budget cuts after voters Tuesday shot down a request to increase the property tax rate by 60 percent.

The binding referendum question received 4,694 “no” votes and 4,351 “yes” votes with all precincts reporting in Kane and DuPage counties, according to unofficial tallies. The tax hike would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $53 per year, bringing in at least an extra $1 million for the district.

This is the second time voters denied the fire district’s request for a tax hike. The cash-strapped agency now will likely have to cut more firefighter positions and potentially brown-out one of its two stations on a rotating basis, Chief John Nixon said.

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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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