Antioch voters to weigh in on fire protection service question
Antioch voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to approve a ballot measure to join the First Fire Protection District of Antioch for fire and rescue services.
A "yes" vote would mean the village would no longer contract with the district for service. Instead, village property owners would be included in the fire protection district and pay taxes directly to it.
The fire district and the volunteer Antioch Fire Department would consolidate under the control of a new five-member fire district board, Village Administrator Jim Keim said. It would not change the operational aspects of fire and rescue services for 14,000 Antioch residents, Keim said.
"The only change would be in the way the fire district is funded and the oversight board, which should result in a more streamlined service for all residents," Keim said.
If approved, the change also would likely mean a tax rate increase for village residents of about 15 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation. For the owner of a house valued at $200,000, it would cost about $90 annually.
Keim said the rate depends on the actual taxes after property tax levies are extended. It is between 12 cents and 17 cents per $100 EAV, he said.
Currently, the First Fire Protection District, which has a staff of full-time firefighters and paramedics, provides services to the village of Antioch and Antioch Township. The Antioch Fire Department provides volunteer firefighters for use by the fire district.
Antioch residents pay a property tax rate to the village of about 35 cents per $100 EAV for fire and rescue services, Keim said. The village contracts with the fire district and pays it from the general fund, he explained. There is usually a discrepancy between what's collected and the amount of the fire service contract, Keim said, and the difference is made up with general fund money.
If the measure is approved, a fire district tax rate would appear on village property tax bills. That rate for village property owners will likely increase by 15 cents per $100 EAV to 50 cents, or the same amount paid for fire service by Antioch Township property owners, Keim said.
"The overall cost to operate the fire service is not going to go up, it will remain unchanged," Keim said. "This should result in a more streamlined, effective and efficient fire service."
The merger would complete a vision to create one fire and rescue service provider and revamp how fire and rescue decisions are made, said Tom Shaughnessy, who is a member of a citizens group that put the referendum question on the ballot.
"The goal has always been to consolidate the fire protection district and the fire department under one entity," Shaughnessy said.
If approved, the First Fire Protection District of Antioch would continue as the primary fire service provider for all residents in the village and township, officials said. The Antioch Fire Department would remain a "quasi-volunteer agency" with volunteer firefighters paid an hourly wage for shifts worked.
The fire district oversight board would increase from three members appointed by township trustees to a five-person board elected from the general population, Shaughnessy said. Fire district board members would run for elected office every four years under the proposal. That board would be tasked with hiring a fire chief and an administrator, if needed.
Antioch Mayor Larry Hanson said "the village supports the unification."
Officials said they don't know of any organized opposition to the referendum.
The referendum mirrors one Fox Lake residents approved in March to merge the Fox Lake Fire Department with the Fox Lake Fire Protection District. In that scenario, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 paid about $138 more in taxes annually.