ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District’s board has voted 5-0 to seek a tax rate increase on the April 7 consolidated election ballot.
Board President Jim Gaffney said the increase is being sought so the district can pay its firefighters higher wages, buy more equipment, meet the costs of maintaining its two firehouses and to set aside money if officials decide to establish a third firehouse at Crane and Bolcum roads in St. Charles Township.
The district, which serves residents in Wayne, Campton Hills and St. Charles Township, already owns the land that would be used for the third firehouse, Gaffney said.
The question asks voters in both Kane and DuPage counties if the extension limitation should “be increased from the lesser of 5 percent or the percentage increase in the consumer price index over the prior levy year to 12.5 percent for each of the levy years of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019?”
The ballot question also contains an explanation of how much additional tax would be collected each year, showing small staggered increases over five years, Gaffney said.
Gaffney said the increased amounts, to be collected on a house with a fair market value of $100,000, would be estimated to be $8.11 in 2015, $8.80 in 2016, $9.54 in 2017, $10.34 in 2018 and $11.21 in 2019.
“We want to bring wages up for a standard of living for firefighters,” Gaffney said. “We want to get them in a medium class of salary. Our firefighters start at $34,000, in comparison to other area districts, which start at $43,000 to $50,000. What we are shooting for is a living, working wage in the $58,000 to $64,000 range, by seniority.”
Though he said the pay scale would be on the lower side of average, Gaffney said it would help the district keep experienced firefighters and paramedics.
A house with a fair market value of $100,000 now pays $96.13 in taxes to the district, Gaffney said. The district takes in $2.4 million in property taxes a year.
If the referendum is approved, it would bring in an additional $293,000 in 2015, $367,000 in 2016, $412,000 in 2017, $464,000 in 2018 and $522,000 in 2019, Gaffney said.
The first two years of the increase would be aimed at increasing wages and being able to pay a full-time deputy chief, he said.
In the third year, the district would start a reserve fund for future equipment and then put money away for building needs and repairs, and possibly the third station.
“By the end of the five years, we should be solid,” Gaffney said. “Then we can continue on and take down the debt, keep firefighters and be in good operating shape.”
That debt is the $1.9 million bond issue that allowed the district to get established. Gaffney said the final payment on that loan is scheduled for 2028.
The referendum question will be filed Tuesday with the Kane County clerk, Gaffney said.