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Local

Fire district laments 5-vote referendum loss

'We are going to muddle along with what we’ve got'

The Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District's tax rate hike April 2 lost by five votes. The district had sought the increase to pay for replacing aging equipment and to pay its firefighters and paramedics. Officials are frustrated and will consider making the current temporary cuts permanent.
The Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District's tax rate hike April 2 lost by five votes. The district had sought the increase to pay for replacing aging equipment and to pay its firefighters and paramedics. Officials are frustrated and will consider making the current temporary cuts permanent.

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – A tax increase referendum for the Fox River and Fire/Rescue District has failed, officials said.

The district had requested an increase of 16.82 cents, which would have increased the tax rate to 43.52 cents from 26.7 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation on the April 2 consolidated election ballot.

The final official tally – including votes from the district’s DuPage County precincts – is 953 no to 948 yes, a loss by five votes. Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said April 16 that he has certified the Kane County results at 909 no to 882 yes.

"It's official," Cunningham said. "They lost."

Mail-in ballots would have to arrive 14 days after April 2, the date of the consolidated election, fire district attorney Kenneth Shepro said.

The fire district has five days for five citizens to ask for a discovery recount of up to 25% of the precincts, Shepro said.

“I won’t say I’m optimistic about the outcome," Shepero said. "I’ve been involved in lots of them and I’ve never seen a vote total change by one vote. The mistakes you used to find don’t exist any more because of electronic voting.”

The point of a recount would not be to change the outcome, “but to look for something we can use as evidence to set aside the result or have a judge order a full recount,” Shepro said.

The metaphor of a needle in a haystack comes to mind when faced with the district’s need to find a mistake in the balloting.

“It’s pretty dire,” Shepro said. “Even if we lost by one vote, it would be tough to find that one [yes] vote. If there is a mistake, it would probably be a mistake in a mail-in ballot. There were only 26 of them, anyway.”

The district had hoped for an additional $1.5 million in revenue to replace aging equipment and pay more to firefighters. Now the district’s officials will have to make some of its temporary cuts permanent, Shepro said.

“There isn’t enough money,” Shepro said. “We’re looking at other options.”

Board president Bob Handley said in addition to the equipment that needs to be replaced is the part-time firefighters making $13.50 an hour.

“It’s sad,” Handley said. “We are going to muddle along with what we’ve got. We really can’t close up shop because we have a statutory obligation to provide fire service.”

The district serves more than 25,000 residents over 38 square miles in the unincorporated areas of St. Charles and Campton townships and the villages of Campton Hills and Wayne.

This is the sixth failed referendum for the district, having asked voters for an increase in 2006, 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018 and now in 2019.

“We’re down to five votes,” Handley said. “It’s frustrating to me. The more we get our information out there, the more they understand, but’s clear there are people we can’t get to. … Most of the people who have made up their mind [and vote] no – they don’t want to hear it.”

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