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Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District votes to raise tax levy

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CAMPTON HILLS – The Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District Board of Trustees on Monday voted to raise its tax levy by a total of about 2.2 percent, said Jim Gaffney, board president.

With the increase, the levy will total a little more than $2.38 million, according to meeting documents. Gaffney said 1.7 percent of the increase would go into the operations fund, while the remainder of the increase would go toward the ambulance service fund. Board members voted unanimously on the increase, Gaffney said.

He said the reason for raising the levy is to increase salaries so they’d be more comparable to other fire departments in the area. He said the number of firefighters and paramedics – currently 24 – would stay the same.

“To maintain qualified help, we have started looking at ways to bring our wages up a little bit,” Gaffney said.

The starting salary at Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District is $32,000 to $34,000, he said, while surrounding cities start their firefighters and paramedics at salaries as high as $65,000 to $70,000.

“No matter where they go, they have the same schooling and same credentials,” Gaffney said. “You can see the market we’re competing against.”

The fire district’s total payroll each year is about $1.3 million, Gaffney said. He said he didn’t know the dollar amount of how much an increase an average homeowner might see with the tax levy increase. The fire district serves more than 30,000 people, he said.

With the tax levy increase, the fire district’s corporate fund would total $1.65 million; its ambulance service fund would total about $363,000; and its emergency/rescue fund would total about $372,800, according to meeting documents.

The fire district is in the process of building a new fire station at the former Wise-Hamlin Plastics factory property on Carl Lee Road and Route 25, but Gaffney said the funds from the increased tax levy will not go toward that building. He stressed that the levy would largely be used to increase salaries.

“We want to start to bring these guys up to where they’ll be competitive,” he said.

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