Posts Tagged Bob Handley

Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District news (more)

Excerpts from the

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 & Countryside FPD wants tax increase (more)

Excerpts from the

Another failed tax increase request would be the worst outcome from efforts to maintain the financial solvency of the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. So to avoid that, district trustees may not ask voters for a tax increase at all. Trustees met with the district’s fire and ambulance service provider, Maryland-based Public Safety Systems Inc., to find a way to cut costs.

“Everybody would love to do the referendum, but it was 3-to-1 against it last time,” said district President Bob Handley. “We know the chance of success is slim. Like any organization, our biggest line item is personnel. So we’re going to look at staffing, but we’ve got to keep the safety of the guys in mind.”

A month ago, trustees introduced the idea of cutting ambulance service. But fire calls represent less than 20 percent of the district’s workload. That makes a change to staffing far more likely, said Ken Shepro, the fire district’s attorney. One option that may make sense is staffing engines and ambulances entirely with a part-time staff. Shepro said several other local departments, including Pingree Grove, use that model and more may be headed that way.

The viability of that model for the district, and its ability to at least defer a tax increase request will be key aspects trustees will weigh in the decision for if and when to hold a referendum. Aside from personnel, the district has some major capital replacement costs looming, including the replacement of a 30-year-old fire engine.

District trustees have until Dec. 28 to put a tax increase question on the March ballot. They will meet Dec. 14 to make a decision.

If trustees don’t put a question on the ballot in March, Shepro said, it’s unlikely voters would see a tax increase question until 2017 at the earliest. Conventional wisdom says most taxing districts should avoid tax increase questions when presidential races are on the ballot. Those elections tend to have higher voter turnouts with more people voting no on tax increases regardless of how much they know about the ballot question.

thanks Dennis

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Fox River & Countryside FPD wants tax increase (more)

Excerpts from the

The difference between the tax increase Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District trustees can put in place on their own, and the tax increase only voters can give them, boils down to survival. Trustees tentatively locked in one increase Monday night. The big request may come as soon as next month.

Trustees got their first look at the new tax levy plan Monday. That levy goes after the maximum tax increase allowed under tax cap law. It comes down to a 1.67 percent increase over the current levy. It will raise the property tax bill of a $300,000 home in the district by about $4, assuming no change in the value of that home next year. The increase would net about $40,000 in new income for the district, though that may not be enough for the district to survive.

The levy will earn a total of about $2.52 million, which represents 94 percent of the district’s income. The budgeted expenditures for the current year are about $3.5 million. Coming into the year, the district had a reserve fund of only $48,000. Trustees sold off a parcel of rental property for a one-time boost of the reserve fund. It now stands at about $1.7 million. With aging equipment, that piggy bank won’t stay full for long.

As a result, new district President Bob Handley urged fellow trustees to decide in November if the district will ask voters for a tax increase. It’s most recent request, which came just this past April, failed by a 3-to-1 margin. Trustees have not yet decided how much money to ask for or what format the tax increase would take. The April question would have phased-in a tax increase over five years. The vote next month seems to be a mere formality.

Trustees have already begun very early discussions about what to do if another tax increase request fails. There are only two options on the table.

Handley broke it down into a succinct scenario: “Do we dissolve, or do we hobble along and just provide fire service?”

In the first scenario, the district would cease to exist. Fire and ambulance service would then, most likely, be provided by a neighboring fire district or department, all of which have higher tax rates than the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. In the second scenario, the district would still exist. It would only offer fire service and advanced life support via the fire engine crew. However, it would not be able to transport any patients to the hospital. That service would have to come from outside the district.

Trustees will discuss the details of how that setup could work, vote on whether to ask voters for a tax increase and lock in the tax levy increase for next year at their next meeting on Nov. 23.

thanks Dan

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