Antioch-area ambulance service supporters gear up for tax hike push

  • Antioch Fire Station 1 at 850 Holbeck Drive in downtown Antioch. The village and First Fire Protection District again are each asking voters to approve a tax to fund ambulance service.

      Antioch Fire Station 1 at 850 Holbeck Drive in downtown Antioch. The village and First Fire Protection District again are each asking voters to approve a tax to fund ambulance service. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/4/2015 5:33 AM

Voters again will be asked to plug a crucial gap in the vision of a unified fire department for the Antioch area by approving a new tax to pay for ambulance service, but this effort carries a more concentrated push to explain the issues and potential consequences, officials say.

Stung last November when voters rejected the question, supporters have upped the public education effort with a variety of methods, including two town hall meetings. The first is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fire Station No. 3, 24675 W. Grass Lake Road.

 

"To me, the bigger issue is: Did enough people get the message rather than a mixed message?" said Matt Tabar, a commissioner of the First Fire Protection District. "They didn't understand the issue, and they didn't understand the consequences if it failed."

Operations are consolidated under the Antioch Fire Department, which covers the village and unincorporated surrounding area. But officials from the village and fire protection district say they don't have the money to fully fund ambulance service, which accounts for about three quarters of 2,700 annual calls.

"There's no public funding for that ambulance service and fees won't cover it," Tabar said.

Another failed referendum would increase response times and also would have an impact on village services, such as road repairs, as the money would have to be shifted from the general fund budget that pays for day-to-day expenses.

The district and village split the estimated $1.5 million annual cost of ambulance service. Both collect taxes that fund fire services, but neither has a specific tax for ambulance service.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mayor Lawrence Hanson said the village has cut more than a third of its employees since 2009 and has scoured the budget for ways to reduce expenses.

"The only thing left is basically cutting services," he said.

Approval of a new tax for ambulance service would cost the owner of a home in Antioch or Antioch Township valued at $170,000 about $142 per year in additional property taxes. No organized opposition has surfaced. However, while there are those who will oppose any tax increase on principle, supporters say, this one could be a matter of public safety as service is spread thinner without it.

"You're not going to vote `Yes' for a tax increase unless you know what it's for," Tabar said. "The 'Yes' people have to go in and say, `This is important for me. This is important for my family.'"

Both entities again will have the same question on the April 7 ballot that was rejected by voters in November. That time, the proposal was defeated in the village, 2,139 to 1,925, and by a wider margin, 2,018 to 1,417, in the fire protection district.

"We think the story tells itself, and it's how to get it out there," Tabar said.

@dhmickzawislak

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.