Confusion concerns proponents of Bartlett fire referendum
Among the greatest misunderstandings about the Bartlett Fire Protection District's March 20 tax increase referendum is the lack of awareness that the district is independent from the village of Bartlett, Fire Chief Mike Falese said.
That became clear over the course of 48 informational meetings about the referendum Falese attended in recent months.
It's significant, Falese said, because voters could mistakenly believe the cash-strapped fire district is part of a village government with other options to raise revenue.
Many who came to the informational meetings and coffees hosted by Falese were surprised to learn the fire district takes only 6 cents of each of their property-tax dollars, Assistant Chief Bill Gabrenya said/. The referendum asks to raise that to 7 cents. The average homeowner's bill would go up about $100 per year -- from $469 to $569.
Another related source of confusion, especially among village residents, is that the fire district also has jurisdiction over unincorporated areas just outside Bartlett. Residents of those unincorporated areas pay the same rate for the same service as elsewhere in the district, Gabrenya said.
One major difference between this year's campaign and last year's failed effort is that the consequences of voters rejecting the tax hike have been identified in advance.
They include reducing the number of firefighters per shift from 14 to 11 and closing one of the district's three stations on a rotating basis.
Such a decrease in service, along with a probable increase in response times, could cause residents' fire insurance premiums to increase, Falese said.
Several people at the informational meetings said they'd rather pay the fire district for better service than their insurance companies for a service cut, Gabrenya said.
Both agreed the district's informational campaign owes gratitude to the 200 volunteers making up Friends of Bartlett Fire, which arranged many sessions with homeowners associations and other groups.
"I know we reached a pretty broad cross-section of the community," Falese said. "They understand our plight a little bit better."