ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – 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, officials said.
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.
“Who knows – it’s a tax referendum,” Handley said. “We seem to be getting a lot of positive feedback from everybody. But you never know until election day.”
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. Handley said 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, fire officials said.