October 02, 2022
Archive | Kendall County Now

Discovery recount sought for Oswego Fire Protection District’s tax referendum

A sign placed in an Oswego parkway urged voter support for the Oswego Fire Protection District's April 6 tax hike referendum. Voters, however, turned down the tax hike request.

The Kendall County Clerk’s Office will conduct a discovery recount for the Oswego Fire Protection District’s tax referendum question, which appears to have failed by only one vote in the June 28 primary election.

The fire district filed paperwork with the county clerk’s office July 22 seeking the discovery recount.

County Clerk Debbie Gillette has set a tentative date of Aug. 1 to handle what is expected to be a daylong procedure.

Under the rules of a discovery recount, the fire district is allowed to seek an examination of up to 25% of the district’s voting precincts.

Gillette said fire officials are seeking a recount of nine of the 40 precincts included in the sprawling fire protection district, which covers a 53-square-mile area of northeast Kendall County and northwestern Will County.

The district includes all of the village of Oswego and unincorporated Boulder Hill, along with portions of Montgomery, Yorkville and Plainfield.

Voters cast 4,149 ballots in favor of the tax-increase referendum and 4,150 against it, according to unofficial vote totals.

Gillette said representatives of the district will be present as employees of the clerk’s elections office conduct the recount of the paper ballots from the nine precincts.

The procedure also includes examination of vote-by-mail applications and other election-related paperwork, Gillette said.

Once complete, the fire district could potentially use the information to go before a judge in asking for a full recount, Gillette said.

Any decision to seek a full recount would be up to the fire district’s board of trustees.

The referendum question is seeking a 0.10% increase in the district’s property tax rate.

Currently, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 pays about $600 in property taxes to the fire district. If the referendum were approved, that same homeowner would see a increase of about $99 to the annual tax bill.

The referendum is the second attempted by the fire district over the past 14 months. Voters narrowly rejected the district’s tax hike request in an April 2021 referendum.

But the second try was as close as it could possibly be, with a one-vote margin of defeat.

On election night, the referendum appeared to have failed by 10 votes, although it was ahead by three votes in the Kendall County portion of the district.

However, a tiny portion of the district extends into Will County. There, 17 voters cast ballots against the referendum and four voted yes, resulting in what appeared to be a 10-vote defeat.

A subsequent count of provisional mail-in ballots July 12 narrowed the gap to one vote.

Fire District Chief John Cornish said he canvassed the trustees before seeking the discovery recount.

Cornish said the nine precincts selected for the discovery recount includes those with high voter turnout and those in which voters left the referendum question blank.

“We’re remaining optimistic,” Cornish said. “There’s always hope.”

Cornish said the district’s growing population and increased demand for service makes passage of the referendum critical.

“The goal is not to let the level of service deteriorate, which it is going to do without the referendum,” Cornish said.

Meanwhile, the fire district board and staff will explore options for making changes to maintain the level of service that residents expect, Cornish said.

If the discovery recount does not produce evidence that would justify seeking a full recount, Cornish said he believes the fire district trustees will make a third attempt with yet another referendum.

“I believe they will. It’s just so close,” Cornish said.

Mark Foster

Mark Foster is a reporter for Kendall County Now, covering local government in Kendall County