Fox River & Countryside fire chief: 'We are cash poor'
Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District officials on Monday continued preparations for an April tax increase referendum even while keeping one eye on the money vacuum a pending nearby drug treatment facility may pose.
A financial presentation Monday night helped quantify the district's push for more tax dollars.
At first glance, the district has about $1.4 million in reserves and $2.43 million coming in every year in property taxes. Add another $212,000 of ambulance fees with four months left in the district's budget year, and everything seems to be on track. But the district gets most of its cash up front with the payment of property tax bills. The next four months will be almost a straight cash drain.
Vehicle maintenance costs have already surpassed this year's budget. And that hole doesn't factor in one of the district's main fire trucks going out of commission. The truck is still under warranty, barely, but the absent equipment highlights the fact that there isn't any long-term financial plan to replace the truck or any of the other major apparatus in the department.
"We are cash poor," said Fire Chief John Nixon.
Nixon and some of the district's trustees plan to demonstrate the exact financial position of the district at a public information forum on the April referendum scheduled for 6:30 p.m., March 6, at the fire district station on Carl Lee Road.
Before that, on Feb. 9, fire district officials will hear the verdict of Kane County's zoning board of appeals on the push to open a drug-treatment center just outside of Campton Hills. Fire district officials believe the facility will add a significant amount of new ambulance calls onto a staff that's already been stretched to cut costs by shifting to some part-timers.
Ken Shepro, the fire district's attorney, said he's concerned that the zoning board would not accept information about how often the district believes calls to the drug treatment facility will leave half of residents with much longer response times.
"How many calls will we get? Well, we don't know because every time we'd try to say during the hearing that (the drug treatment facility) was similar to something else they would say that wasn't like what they were planning to do. We never really found out what they do plan on being like."
Shepro said the zoning board also never got an answer as to what types of emergency calls the drug treatment facility will generate. Representatives of the facility testified there would be no calls to the facility that wouldn't be typical for any other customer of the fire district.
"The zoning board doesn't seem to understand why adding up to 150 people at a drug treatment facility, when you already serve 25,000, will add much of a burden," Shepro said. "Well, duh, this will be a hospital that is full of sick people who are in need of immediate detox."
The fire district also faces a possible major shake-up in representation. All three district trustee seats on the April ballot are contested. The races involve candidates supported by Jim Gaffney, the fire district's former president. Gaffney had a major falling out with his fellow board members and resigned in October 2015.