Endorsement: Yes to Winfield fire district tax increase
The Winfield Fire Protection District is seeking a tax increase that would raise roughly $650,000 a year to hire, train and equip six firefighters to staff its south side fire station, one of two in the district. The problem is, the district says, it hasn't been able to afford staffing its south side station since it stopped using volunteer firefighters a couple of decades ago. With an increased frequency of trains running on the Union Pacific rail line tracks, the possibility is also growing that firefighters responding from the north side station will get held up on an emergency call. It's no light speculation. Officials say the tracks carry up to 108 trains a day on average, or 4.5 per hour.
The district says the average response time to an emergency on the south side is 8 minutes, 27 seconds, compared to the north side average of 4 minutes, 55 seconds.
The tax increase would add $122 to the property tax bill for the owner of a $300,000 house. The increase would add about $650,000 in annual income to a budget of about $3 million. The district's reserves total nearly $3 million, and its latest budget is balanced with a small surplus. So the fire district does appear to have some reserves to work with.
A tax increase averaging $122 is not a small one, to be sure. But however the district got into this situation years ago of an unstaffed station on the south side, the district makes a compelling case about train interference and response times to a portion of the village. Adding staff for the fire station, without new income, would deplete reserves within a few years.
It's time to end this situation. We recommend voting "yes" on the fire district's request.