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Local

Fox River fire district faces cuts in wake of financial woes, will seek rate hike in March

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Officials at the the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District are bracing for critical budget issues caused by the failure of its April referendum, they said.

Board President Jim Gaffney said the district would ask voters for an increase again, this time on the March 15 primary ballot in 2016. Voters defeated the rate hike request by a 3-1 margin in April, records show.

"If it doesn't pass next March, then we will not meet payroll at all by 2017-18," Gaffney said.

The board will consider a tentative 2015-16 budget that reflects reduced spending and deferring equipment replacment at its next meeting, 7 p.m. Monday, June 22, at Fire Station Three, 34W500 Carl Lee Road, St. Charles.

Gaffney said the district could be dissolved, but it would have to be by voter initiative.

"Then the state fire marshal comes in and breaks us up, and re-appropriates us into different districts," Gaffney said.

Those would be fire districts in Elburn, South Elgin, Bartlett and West Chicago, Gaffney said.

The Fox River district, which formed four years ago, covers parts of St. Charles, Campton and Wayne townships in Kane and DuPage counties, and sections of Wayne and Campton Hills.

The unaudited 2015 year-end totals show the fire district had $47,877, while the original 2016 budget projections, without cuts, would put the district nearly $500,000 in deficit.

The district cannot replace staff when they leave for better-paying jobs, and has to defer replacement of fire trucks and ambulances, Gaffney said.

A captain, a lieutenant and three firefighter/paramedics left for better paying jobs, Gaffney said. None will be replaced, saving the district $240,000, Gaffney said. But that is not enough to cover the replacement cost of fire trucks at $450,000 and ambulances at $250,000 each, he said.

The fire district's attorney, Ken Shepro, said equipment replacement is critical.

"This is not like, 'I want a new car.' You have to replace these things," Shepro said. "They get an incredible amount of usage."

Starting Wednesday, the district will operate with its remaining 21 personnel, re-arranged in shifts so all stations are covered, with no layoffs, Shepro said.

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