Endorsements: Yes to Fox River, Countryside Fire District proposal
The Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District has undergone dramatic changes since 2010. Historically, the agency had collected taxes to pay to contract with the city of St. Charles for fire service. Then St. Charles began raising the cost of the contract beyond the district's means and trustees tried unsuccessfully to persuade the city to improve service within the district by adding firefighters. District officials decided it was time to go operational by severing ties with St. Charles and opening, equipping and staffing two fire stations.
At the time, some doubted whether the district could save money operating on its own rather than contracting with St. Charles. Projections, after all, had indicated the district would be insolvent by 2013 had it continued working with the city. Since the separation took effect in 2011, the district has kept expenses within its revenues, 90 percent of which come from property taxes.
Now, development is picking up in the district with new subdivisions planned and construction resuming in others that had halted work when the economy fell. To meet the demands of a growing population while maintaining or improving response times, the district will need a third fire station.
Meanwhile, district officials say, the district can't afford to pay firefighters and paramedics as much as other communities. Often, firefighters join Fox River & Countryside, train and gain experience, then leave for higher-paying jobs in other departments.
The district is asking residents to approve a property tax increase designed to retain quality firefighters and paramedics by paying them a competitive wage, fund the construction and operation of a third fire station and help build the district's reserves to withstand an emergency.
While the proposal ultimately would see the owner of a $100,000 house pay $48 more than the $96 on his current tax bill, the increase would be phased in over five years. In the first year, the increase would cost the same homeowner $8; the largest increase would be $11 in the final year.
Since 2010, the district's leadership has taken steps to improve safety and service for residents while keeping costs in check. This request similarly focuses on quality service as the district grows and takes steps to ease the impact on property owners. We recommend voters say "yes" to Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue.