Our View: Voters should consider Fox River and Countryside Fire referendum

Residents served by the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum question during the consolidated election April 7.

The question asks voters in both Kane and DuPage counties whether the extension limitation for the district should “be increased from the lesser of 5 percent or the percentage increase in the consumer-price index over the prior levy year to 12.5 percent for each of the levy years of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019?”

Officials with the fire district have said the increased amounts to be collected on a house with a fair market value of $100,000 – as an example – would be estimated at $8.11 in 2015, $8.80 in 2016, $9.54 in 2017, $10.34 in 2018 and $11.21 in 2019.

Applying those dollar amounts further, a document from the district shows that the owner of a home valued at approximately $122,000 would pay about $80 more in taxes in 2019 versus 2014, should the referendum effort be successful.

Additional funds collected would be used to increase the wages paid to fire district personnel, as well as for future equipment purchases. In addition, extra funds could be put toward a third fire station.

The district, which covers about 38 square miles and serves residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships, already owns the land that would be used for a third station.

Starting salary for a firefighter in the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District is $34,000, whereas other fire districts in the area start those in similar positions at $43,000 to $50,000, officials said, noting that they want to be able to retain firefighters by paying them competitive wages.

The fire district tax rate currently is one of the lowest in northern Illinois, officials added. The 2013 rate for the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District was .266, compared with .786 for the Elburn fire district, .803 for the Pingree Grove fire district and .816 for the South Elgin fire district, according to county data.

Although it’s possible that the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District could save money by shifting its makeup of 24 full-time firefighters and paramedics and handful of part-time staff to include more part-timers, we’re not so sure that’s in the best interest of residents.

Safety typically is among the top concerns listed by community members. And enabling the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District to pay its employees more, while also providing additional funds for equipment and potentially a third fire station, will enhance the district’s overall capabilities.

Residents who prioritize safety should consider voting yes on this referendum April 7.