Judge: Fox River fire referendum has to be done again

A Kane County judge has ordered a do-over for the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District referendum for Nov. 6 because the early voting and Election Day ballots in the spring were incomplete.

The rescue district's tax increase question was rejected by 32 votes in the March 20 primary election, but Ken Shepro and other residents filed a lawsuit arguing the Kane County clerk failed to include a sentence on the ballot explaining what the tax increase would cost homeowners.

That sentence is required by state law for tax increase questions and the clerk's office failed to fix the problem after being notified, the suit says. In this case, it should have informed voters their taxes would increase $53 a year for every $100,000 in equalized assessed value of a home.

"Bottom line is we're going to redo it in November," Shepro said after a court hearing Wednesday before Judge David Akemann. "We're going to redo it everywhere, not just Kane County."

According to the lawsuit, Kane County Clerk John Cunningham was informed during early voting that the ballot question was incomplete. The remedy was to have election judges hand applicable voters a slip of paper explaining the tax increase's effect for each $100,000 value of a home.

Shepro said some voters got the slips but many did not.

"Every ballot that was voted on the E-Slate in the English language did not contain the full ballot question," Shepro argued. "We believe the only appropriate relief is to invalidate the election because the question was not properly submitted."

Pat Bond, an attorney representing the DuPage County Election Commission, said ballots in the three precincts on the DuPage side were correct on March 20. Bond did not object to redoing the election in November.

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Erin Brady, representing Cunningham, told the judge that Cunningham "stands ready to accept any order of the court." Brady did not dispute allegations made in the suit.

Cunningham declined to comment months ago after the lawsuit was filed. A phone message left for him Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Shepro praised Cunningham's office for its cooperation in providing information after the lawsuit was filed. "There's no allegation of fraud or irregularities. It's simply a mistake," he said.

Fire officials have said the tax increase was needed to avoid closing one of the district's two fire stations every other day. Since the ballot effort failed, officials have cut several firefighters.

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