DuPage County voters to decide several ballot questions in March

From proposals to bolster spending for fire protection to a plan to merge the county clerk's office with the election commission, DuPage voters will weigh in on a variety of referendum questions during the primary election.

Here's a look at four questions that will appear on the March 20 ballot.

Bloomingdale Fire

The Bloomingdale Fire Protection District is seeking voter approval to borrow $4.5 million to repair fire stations and replace aging vehicles and equipment.

"We're just trying to repair or replace our fleet, facilities and equipment that's essential to providing the level of care that district residents have become accustomed to," Chief Jeffrey Janus said.

The biggest concern is an aging fleet.

"One of our three engines is over 20 years old," Janus said. "Two of them have over 100,000 miles on them and one of our ambulances has almost 120,000 miles on it."

Maintenance costs, meanwhile, continue to rise.

The district would repay the $4.5 million loan over 10 years. During that time, roughly $3.17 million would be spent replacing ambulances, engines and other vehicles. The rest would be set aside for building repairs and equipment purchases.

Officials say all three stations need work. For example, the district wants to make $350,000 in structural repairs to Station 22, built in 1969 along Keeney Road. And the headquarters station along Bloomingdale Road needs an estimated $250,000 in repairs to its HVAC system, officials say.

In addition, the district wants about $513,000 to upgrade equipment, including ECG monitors and extrication devices.

"We're not looking to go out and buy all this stuff on Jan. 1 (2019) if this is approved," Janus said. "As things need to be replaced, we will be replacing them."

None of the money would be spent on personnel, hiring, salaries or pension costs.

Homeowners are expected to see a drop in their tax bills this year because the district paid off construction-related debt in 2017. If voters support the referendum question, the taxes homeowners pay to the district will go back up in 2019.

The owner of a $300,000 house is expected to pay roughly $661 this year to the district. If the increase is approved, that amount will increase by $38.

The district provides fire, medical and emergency services to 35,000 residents in six towns and some unincorporated areas.

DuPage County

DuPage officials want to demonstrate public support for disbanding the county election commission and returning its responsibilities to the clerk's office. So county board members agreed to put an advisory referendum question on the ballot to consolidate the offices.

Election oversight power was stripped from the clerk's office in the early 1970s to create the election commission.

If voters approve the measure, officials say they'll take the results to state lawmakers and urge them to pass legislation to eliminate the election commission.

Officials say merging the offices could save taxpayers at least $300,000 a year.

West Chicago

More than eight years after prohibiting video gambling in West Chicago, city officials are considering repealing the ban.

But before the city council makes a decision, aldermen want to know what residents think. An advisory question will ask if the city should permit video gambling.

While the ballot question isn't binding, council members will pay close attention.

"They are hoping the feedback will help them make a decision after the election," City Administrator Michael Guttman said.

York Center Fire

York Center Fire Protection District officials are seeking a property tax increase to improve minimum staffing levels and replace aging equipment.

If the measure is approved by voters, it would generate roughly $238,000 a year in additional revenue for the district that includes half of Oakbrook Terrace, as well as unincorporated areas near Oak Brook, Lombard and Villa Park.

Chief Andy Bonomo said the money would ensure the district maintains its existing level of service and minimum staffing could be increased from seven firefighters to eight.

The extra revenue also would help pay for new equipment and vehicles.

The district, for example, wants to update its communication equipment. It also wants to buy an ambulance this year and a heavy rescue squad during fiscal 2021-2022.

The owner of a $200,000 home currently pays roughly $592 in property taxes to the district. If the ballot question is approved, that owner would pay an additional $66.

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