Algonquin-Lake in the Hills fire district to try again for tax hike

 
 
Updated 9/21/2016 4:13 PM

The Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District is again seeking a property tax hike after an identical request was rejected last spring.

A binding referendum question on the November ballot will ask voters to approve a new tax for equipment purposes and emergency and rescue crews. If it is approved, the fire protection district would levy the tax at a rate of 0.1 percent of taxable property value.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Chief Peter Van Dorpe said increased health care costs and declining revenues have left a hole in the district's operational budget -- an issue that has prompted cuts, particularly in personnel costs, over the past two years. In addition to reducing the number of firefighters on duty each day, he said, the district has also eliminated half its administrative staff.

"I can't maintain the personnel level I have with the current revenue stream," Van Dorpe said. "Sooner rather than later, I'm going to have to cut back further. I'm trying to prevent having to do that."

The fire protection district has also started dipping into reserves to pay for necessary capital improvement projects, such as replacing sprinkler systems in its buildings, he said. And to save money, some apparatus has been sold or consolidated.

If voters approve the referendum, the additional tax would generate between $800,000 and $900,000 per year, Van Dorpe said. That means the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $65 per year in property taxes, he said.

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Those funds collected from the district's roughly 40,000 residents would go toward both the general fund and capital improvements.

Though an identical referendum question failed by about 500 votes in March, Van Dorpe said, the fire district is trying to expand their outreach efforts to more residents this time around. Information sessions are also tentatively scheduled for late October and early November, he said, noting updates will be posted on the district's website.

"It's the same song and dance. ... We just want to maintain the level of service we have," Van Dorpe said. "I don't want to wait for this to become a crisis. I want to get ahead of this."

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