Voters turn down Oswego Fire Protection District referendum

District had sought passage of tax hike to provide additional revenue to maintain service level amid growing population

Oswego Fire Protection District voters rejected the district’s request for a property tax hike in balloting Tuesday, April 6.

Final, unofficial vote totals from Kendall and Will Counties Tuesday evening showed voters rejecting the referendum by a margin of 298 ballots out of 5,134 ballots cast. The unofficial totals show 2,716 “no” votes were cast on the referendum question to 2,418 “yes” votes.

The fire district had sought passage of the referendum--its first since 2002--to provide additional revenues to maintain its current service level as the fire district’s population continues to grow, according to fire district officials and referendum supporters.

If voters had approved the referendum, the fire district estimated it would have increased the property taxes for the average homeowner by less than $75 per year, based on the $225,000 average fair market value of a single family home in the district.

In announcing the referendum Jan. 28, Dick Kuhn, fire protection district board president, said in a statement that he and other board members considered the projected growth in ambulance and fire calls in the years ahead due to increasing local population.

“The board concluded without the additional revenue as service demands increase, ambulance availability will decrease and response times will increase,” Kuhn said in a statement, adding, “The bottom line will be that we will not be able to provide the level of service we provide today. None of the trustees find that acceptable, so we are asking the residents to do their research and vote.”

Robb Carpenter, a paramedic and firefighters with the district, said in an interview late last month the fire district is “not in dire straits” and it would continue to provide service to the community in the event voters rejected the referendum. But passage of the referendum, he said, would “help us do our jobs a bit better” as the community continues to grow.

The fire district serves an area far beyond its namesake village of Oswego. The agency’s boundaries cover a 64-square-mile area that includes the village of Oswego, the unincorporated Boulder Hill subdivision, much of the south side of the village of Montgomery, about 1 1/2 square miles of the Grande Park subdivision in the village of Plainfield, a small area of the city of Yorkville and the unincorporated county areas that lie between many of the municipal boundaries.The fire district’s population has also increased from about 27,000 in 2002, the last year the fire district attempted and secured passage of a referendum, to an estimated 65,000 today.

In addition since the district’s last referendum, the district’s call volume has increased from 2,000 to more than 5,700 calls a year, staffing has increased from 17 firefighter/paramedics to 75, and the number of stations operated by the district have increased from two to four, according to fire district data.