Glen Ellyn mosquito abatement district seeks tax increase amid calls for consolidation
Of the 15 referendum questions in DuPage County next month, a ballot measure from an obscure unit of government might not seem like a hot-button issue.
But the property tax increase sought by the Glen Ellyn Mosquito Abatement District has reignited calls from a DuPage County Board member to consolidate mosquito-control efforts.
The district filed paperwork in mid-August to place a question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters to approve its first operating tax rate increase in about two decades. If approved, the owner of a $400,000 house would pay $5 to $7 more in property taxes to the district. That same resident now pays between $13 and $14 a year to the district.
In recent years, the district has dipped into reserves to fund additional treatments meant to ward off mosquitoes and protect against mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, board Chairman Jim Ryan said.
But abatement districts in Glen Ellyn and other towns also have been criticized by consolidation advocates who raise issues with transparency and the widely varying treatments used to fight the pests.
Glen Ellyn's district does not have an office. The five-member board, appointed by Milton Township trustees, is meeting temporarily at the Main Street Recreation Center while the Civic Center is being renovated. Its next meeting is at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The most-recent meeting agenda posted to the district's website dates to 2014. The site also lists the district's attorney as Thomas Eckhardt, who died three years ago.
Consolidation proponents are quick to say abatement districts in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and other towns each have their own contract with St. Charles-based Clarke Environmental. They support merging agencies to better coordinate treatments and testing.
"Mosquito abatement is important and it's too important to be handled in a patchwork fashion by these individual units that don't communicate effectively with each other," said DuPage County Board member Tim Elliott, who lives in the district.
A bill signed this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner allows for a mosquito abatement district to merge with a municipality, county or another district if a majority of its trustees vote in favor of consolidation. The body assuming operations also would have to agree.
Elliott called the new legislation the "easier and more cost effective" approach. But if the district doesn't intend to turn over its responsibility, Elliott "would be interested in going to a referendum."
"I am absolutely committed to consolidating this unit of government," he said.
The district paid Clarke $102,371 for a 2018 base contract, plus $48,250 for additional services. This season, the district approved six villagewide sprayings -- deployed from an ATV along the Prairie Path, a truck along streets and a helicopter over the Village Links golf course and the district's northern border -- at a cost of $38,935. The district also authorized a fourth catch basin treatment at a cost of $9,315.
The district fund balance in November is expected to total about $171,00, down from a balance of $203,007 at the end of July 2016, Ryan said.
If voters approve the tax increase, the district will receive about $61,952 in new revenue starting in June 2019.
"We have a public health issue that the district is working to protect residents from, and we need additional dollars to do the job in a forthright manner that protects the elderly, the young and ourselves," Ryan said.
The district tests Culex pipiens mosquitoes, the kind that carry West Nile, at a trap on Milton Avenue. On July 18, it recorded its first positive test. "Then we stayed positive almost week after week," Ryan said.
Ryan said his district tries to dovetail sprayings with those in Wheaton and Milton Township, but he supports local control.
"You have five individuals who live in the community who look at what's best for Glen Ellyn," Ryan said. "If you look at Wheaton's program, it's very different from Glen Ellyn's. They have different circumstances and they do a lot of things very well. But Glen Ellyn has a much different program, and I think Glen Ellyn is better served by Glen Ellyn residents deciding what happens versus the township deciding what happens in Glen Ellyn or the county deciding what happens in Glen Ellyn."