Voters reject Palatine Rural Fire tax hike

A proposed property tax increase for the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District failed Tuesday by a vote of 611 to 517, with only slightly more than 6 percent of registered voters in the district casting ballots.

Fire district officials asked for the increase to meet expenses in the face of declining property values.

Despite voters rejecting the measure, the closeness of the vote cheered Fire Chief Hank Clemmensen.

"Asking for a tax increase is difficult," he said. "We'll probably try again in the future, although I can't speak for the board."

In the light of the vote, a firefighter who was injured and expected to take a pension in a few months will not be replaced, Clemmensen said. Currently the department has five firefighters on duty at all times, and that could decrease to four, he added.

Calls for help from firefighter/paramedics have gone up while the district's tax revenue dropped $300,000, or about 9 percent in one year, according to district officials. The district received about $3.33 million in property taxes last year, and almost no income from any other source.

Clemmensen said officials will investigate other revenue opportunities, such as renting district property for a cellular communications tower. They also will continue to work on opportunities to share resources with neighboring departments.

Officials also hope the housing market will improve enough that the equalized assessed valuation for the district will start to rise again.

The tax hike would have given the district additional revenue of about $200,000 a year. The increase would cost homeowners about $50 for each $100,000 in assessed value of their properties. The most recent assessed valuation in the district was $409 million, down from $445 million the previous year.

The district covers 17 square miles, including the eastern two-thirds of Inverness and unincorporated areas of Palatine Township.

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