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Local

Fire district to seek 16-cent tax rate hike in new referendum

The Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District will make another rate increase request on the March 20 ballot.
The Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District will make another rate increase request on the March 20 ballot.

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District board voted to confirm its intent to put a 16-cent tax levy increase referendum on the March 20 primary ballot.

The board took action at a special meeting Jan. 3 to put its fifth request before voters.

The increase being sought is 60 percent over the prior year levy – considerably less than the 95 percent request which voters defeated in April 2017, board attorney Kenneth Shepro said.

“The district confirmed the binding question we adopted in November,” Shepro said. “If it goes through, it would still make us the lowest rate of any of our neighboring fire districts.”

A 16-cent increase would hike the current rate to 43 cents from the current rate of 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, providing approximately $1 million more per year, Shepro said.

The previous request would have raised $2.4 million for the district, officials said.

“This is based on a really bare bones personnel restoration and capital improvement program,” Shepro said. “We would actually be able to meet the projected capital replacement needs of the district for the foreseeable future by gradually building up funds to do that. … It would allow us to restore the full-time people that were eliminated after the last referendum failed.”

Passage of the referendum would also head off the possibility of a rotating closure of its two stations to save money, Shepro said.

The proposed increase would cost an additional $54 for a house valued at $100,000; $108 more for a house valued at $200,000; and $162 for a house valued at $300,000, Shepro said.

The district covers about 38 square miles and serves residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships.

The fire board also approved three advisory referendum questions, designed to further educate voters, Shepro said.

The non-binding questions ask:

• Are you aware that without a tax increase, the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District will be forced to close one of its two stations on a rotating basis?

• Are you aware that the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District’s tax rate is only approximately one-third of its neighboring districts?

• Are you aware that if the proposed tax increase passes, the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue’s tax rate will still be substantially lower than its neighboring districts?

“When they get in the voting booth and still manage not to be aware of what’s going on, they can see these questions and hope to point to yes when [they] get to the binding one,” Shepro said.

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