For 75 years, the volunteer Antioch Rescue Squad provided ambulance service to the village and the township, but after a scandal shook faith in the service, local officials instead entrusted ambulance service last May to the Antioch Fire Department.
Now, voters in Antioch and Antioch Township are being asked separately to approve a tax increase to generate about $1.5 million a year to fund the service. The increase will cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $83 in the first year, officials estimate.
While new taxes are not an easy sell, in this case, the money is needed for public safety. If the tax is rejected in the village, public officials likely can maintain an essential service with painful cuts in other municipal services. But the township has much less flexibility in taxing and spending.
If the increase is rejected by township voters, Antioch Fire Chief Nixon said the fire department would continue to send a truck with paramedics to the unincorporated area in answer to emergency calls, but residents who need to go to the hospital likely would have to hire a private ambulance, meaning service delays or inability to pay could put lives at risk.
Nixon, who, is not allowed to take a public position on the issue, said the department handles about 2,000 rescue calls a year. Fees charged to ambulance users cover only 38 percent of the cost of the service. Since May, the township fire district has used up 68 percent of its reserves to fund the service, he said. We recommend voters both in Antioch and Antioch Township support the increase.