Endorsement: 'No' for Fox Lake to join fire district

  • Voters in Fox Lake will be asked whether to merge with the Fox Lake Rural Fire Protection District.

    Voters in Fox Lake will be asked whether to merge with the Fox Lake Rural Fire Protection District. Daily Herald File Photo

 
Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 2/24/2016 10:14 AM

Should Fox Lake residents fully join the Fox Lake Fire Protection District?

The village says yes because it needs to get politics out of fire coverage and not negotiate contracts with the district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Instead of the village negotiating with the fire protection district on a fire contract, the fire district would collect tax money by themselves," Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit says.

At first, that notion seems simple. Why not cut out an extra layer of government? But a closer look resembles a bit of a shell game with taxpayer money. Right now, the village collects taxes and pays the fire district for coverage. And it pulls money from its general fund to cover the difference. So approving this referendum means the village won't spend about $210,000 and residents will have to pay a higher tax rate to the fire district (the owner of a $200,000 home in Fox Lake would pay an additional $138 in taxes annually).

The village doesn't plan to cut taxes for residents, but instead will keep the $200,000 or so, pop it in the general fund and use it for "staff, infrastructure and park programs." Opponents are right that this amounts to a new tax.

Bottom line: Village wins $210,000. Average taxpayer loses $138. So we vote "no" on the referendum. Consolidating governments is a good idea when it saves money, and we might support a proposal like this in other circumstances. But if the village actually is going to ask homeowners to pay more, it should make a stronger case than just promising to get out of the contract negotiation business -- especially when the tax increase comes in conjunction with a sales tax increase request and comes on the heels of increases to water fees and a 1.5 percent "places-of-eating" sales tax.

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