Bartlett fire trustees to decide Dec. 20 on tax-hike request

  • Bartlett Fire Protection District trustees expect to decide Dec. 20 on the percentage increase to request on their proposed March 20 tax hike referendum to maintain current service levels.

      Bartlett Fire Protection District trustees expect to decide Dec. 20 on the percentage increase to request on their proposed March 20 tax hike referendum to maintain current service levels. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/28/2017 10:07 PM

Though Bartlett Fire Protection District trustees have already discussed the service cuts they'd make if voters reject a tax-hike proposal via a March 20 referendum, they have yet to decide the exact percentage of the requested increase.

That decision is scheduled for their next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the district's headquarters, 234 N. Oak Ave. in Bartlett.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They believe that's when they'll have the most up-to-date financial information ahead of the referendum filing deadline on Jan. 2.

Last April, 59.5 percent of voters rejected a requested 19.5 percent tax-levy increase.

While discussing the financial consequences of that vote during the summer, trustees said that not having detailed information on service cuts may have been a weakness of the information campaign for the referendum. And because the service cuts they said are necessary without a tax hike are so significant, the trustees opted to try one more time at the polls before implementing them.

Fire Chief Michael Falese told trustees the district's core financial issue is its increasing volume of calls combined with its extremely low tax rate in comparison to other fire districts.

Without a sufficient tax increase to maintain today's level of service, Falese recommended reducing the number of responders per shift from 14 to 11.

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The three per shift who would be cut are the one "paid-on-premises" firefighter and two private contractors who provide a lower-cost supplement to the 10 more experienced union employees and their battalion chief.

Because the district's three engines and two ambulances require a specific number of people, the only way to reduce staffing effectively is to take a whole vehicle out of operation -- in this case, an engine, Falese said.

As a result, the recommended cuts also would entail closing one of the district's three stations on a rotating basis throughout the year.

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