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updated: 10/31/2013 7:42 PM

Glen Ellyn exploring property tax to help pay for fire company

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Levying a property tax on residents is one solution village officials are exploring to address revenue shortfalls at the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Department.

Officials say the property tax option would cost the owner of a $425,000 home roughly $100 more a year.

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The fire company has relied on donations and grants in the past, but that revenue has leveled off, officials said. With capital expenditures looming to replace 20-year-old trucks, the funding challenges are looming larger.

"The ongoing and growing needs are really what is driving this," Village Manager Mark Franz said. "The board and the president have been upfront with wanting to tackle this as quickly as we can. It's been on the horizon for some time and we want to address it once and for all."

Franz said revenue from a property tax would generate an estimated $870,000 annually.

Another option being discussed is a flat water bill fee.

"We haven't figured out how to assess some of the larger users," Franz said. "We have some challenges and some research that we still need to work through."

Glen Ellyn's volunteer company, established in 1907, is staffed at 65 members with a fleet of 16 vehicles housed in two stations.

The company brought in $456,000 in revenue in 2012, but its projected operating budget came in at $684,000 -- the largest portion of that set aside for capital improvements. The company has two trucks that need to be replaced at a cost of $500,000 each, and in two years Chief Jim Bodony said its largest vehicle will need to be switched out at an estimated $1.2 million price tag.

Bodony said the company would like to save money each year to buy trucks, but it has been unable to do so for several years. Contributions through the company's annual fund drive have stagnated.

In addition, Franz said the nearly 50-year-old Station 1 needs a complete rebuild over the next 10 to 15 years. The fire chief is the only salaried position with the company, but a part-time day staffers are paid a stipend.

Franz said the village is saving an estimated $3 million to $3.5 million annually from what a full-time department would cost.

"A volunteer company does not mean a free fire company," Franz said. "We are still bearing a significant savings by using that (volunteer) model."

Discussion on the issue will continue at the village board's Nov. 12 meeting.

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