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Select voters in the Elburn fire district will decide Nov. 4 whether they want to join the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District.
The upcoming ballot measure regarding fire service has turned political. The Elburn Village Board recently approved a resolution opposing the potential disconnection, and Fox River Fire Chief Greg Benson said some opponents are spreading misinformation about his district.
“At the end of the day, let the voters decide,” Benson said.
About 3,000 registered voters live in the proposed disconnect area, a territory roughly bound by LaFox Road to the east, Anderson Road to the west, Campton Hills Road to the south and Silver Glen Road to the north.
Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District Chief Kelly Callaghan said his agency has a proven track record of taking care of that area for both fire and EMS, and it recently opened a station in Lily Lake to better serve it.
“Our department has been in existence 132 years, much more than three,” Callaghan said. “We know all the ins and outs of the area.”
Benson said the quality of service shouldn’t be an issue because a judge determined the territory would receive comparable service from the Fox River district.
In fact, he said, residents should experience shorter 911 call processing times. Currently, calls from the disconnect area are received by Kane Comm and are transferred to Tri-Com before units are dispatched, a process that can take up to four minutes, he said. Fox River calls are received and dispatched by Kane Comm, he said, a process that takes up to 21/2 minutes.
Property owners would pay less in taxes should they join the Fox River district, Benson said, noting Elburn’s tax rate is about 0.79 and Fox River’s is about 0.27.
To illustrate the potential savings, the Fox River district compiled a list of addresses in the disconnect area, the taxes they paid to Elburn and the projected taxes they would pay to Fox River.
According to the list, a home in the 40W000 block of Fox Creek Drive in Campton Hills paid $1,548.28 in taxes to Elburn and would pay an estimated $524.44 to Fox River – a difference of $1,023.84. On the lower end of potential savings, another home in the village might see a difference of about $350.
Should the disconnect be approved, Callaghan said the Elburn district won’t know the exact amount the district would lose in property taxes until the levy is approved.
“We’re going to do everything we can not to lay off,” he said. “We still have 20,000 people in our district that we have to provide the same services for.”
Both fire districts charge EMS fees – the chiefs said it is common practice – and the rates vary by residency status and ambulance type.
Benson said his district also has been accused of charging fees for fire responses, which he said is not true.
“We’re not making money,” Benson said.
However, he said, its cost recovery ordinance gives the district the ability to charge a fee in certain circumstances, such as arsons or other illegal activities. Similarly, he said, a fee could be brought against someone who has a history of false fire alarms and refuses to fix the alarm system.