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Local

Fox River and Countryside Fire District to keep both stations open – for now

Fire officials look to save money as citizens file for recount

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District board determined April 16 that it would hold off a rotation of brownouts of its two stations at least until after the Nov. 6 election.

Officials discussed what to do following the failure of its March 20 tax increase referendum, which lost by 32 votes. The official tally canvassed on April 11 was

1,995 yes to 2,027 no, a difference of 32 votes, officials said.

“We rejected brownouts for the time being,” fire district attorney Kenneth Shepro said. “The board chose an option to allow us to keep both stations available through the end of the year – or through the November ballot.”

Trustees decided they want to go back to the voters in the fall, whether they decide on another question or if a court rules they get a do-over because the ballots were flawed, Shepro said.

If the district chooses to be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, trustees must change the amount sought on the question, Shepro said, or they would have to wait two years to ask the same question again.

The district asked for a 16-cent increase that would have increased the rate to 43 cents from the current rate of 27 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, providing approximately $1 million more per year, officials had said.

In order to save money in the short term, the board eliminated one part-time staff position for each of three shifts, a savings of $142,500, Shepro said.

“We have two engines in need of immediate repair,” Shepro said. “We cannot save money but through personnel and equipment. We have enough in reserve and personnel savings to get them to November.”

Board president Robert Handley called it a “chicken and egg situation.”

“We cannot have firefighters without equipment, and we cannot have equipment without firefighters,” Handley said.

The part that was missing from the ballot should have stated, “For the 2018 levy year, the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single-family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $52,” officials said.

“We may get it overturned because of the defect in the ballot itself,” Handley said. “We can’t challenge it. The challenge has to come from citizens in the community.”

Ten citizens have already stepped up to seek a discovery recount, with notices filed April 16, Shepro said. The district has five precincts in Kane County and one in DuPage.

“Any five people can ask for up to 25 percent of the precincts to be recounted,” Shepro said. “If we get enough groups of five that can ask for different 25 percents to be recounted – we can get all of them.”

Recounting can sort out what areas got what ballots, as Handley said some parcels in the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District have the Fox River’s fire signs.

And it appears that some properties between the two fire districts are not taxed by either one, Handley said.

“It’s a goofy situation,” Handley said.

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