The South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District is asking voters March 20 to approve two tax increases to build and equip two fire stations. The first referendum entails borrowing $10 million for building, including a station on the far East Side. The second question asks for a 0.1 percent increase to the fire district levy to pay for equipment and a minimum of nine more full-time firefighters.
For a taxpayer with a $200,000 home the combined increase is $129.25 yearly. Those who claim a homeowner's exemption would pay slightly less, according to a consulting firm. The district hasn't had a referendum since 1998, which was successful and addressed staffing needs.
The 24-square-mile district employs 30 full-time firefighters/paramedics and part-timers who last year responded to 2,900 calls, 70 percent of which were for emergency services. Part of the plan would be to relocate the existing station on State Street, which is 60 years old and has structural problems that need addressing. That station, adjacent to the village hall, could be sold to the village.
District officials have said the new stations and manpower are needed to deal with future growth, some of it already in the works. Under the plan, the district's three fire stations would be well-positioned to each cover about one-third of the territory. A new far East Side station could handle multiple new commercial and residential construction projects.
While the overall price might seem steep, the extra $10.77 per month seems reasonable. More strategically located stations will mean quicker response times. When one considers the district also has a hazardous materials response team and a dive rescue team, it's money well spent. We recommend a yes vote.