Fox River fire district makes case for $13M bond issue
Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District officials made their case Wednesday night for a $13 million bond issue on the June 28 primary ballot.
"Since 2011, when we started, we have grown leaps and bounds," board President Kristin LeBlanc said at a public information session. "We have created a district, and we have grown to two fire stations. We have invested in equipment. We have invested in our people. We have retained a lot of our employees from the beginning.
"We are looking at our next phase, which is continuing to meet the demands of the community."
The district serves residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships in Kane and DuPage counties.
Officials spoke to a crowd of four, but the presentation is on its website, frcfr.org. The district is accepting questions via email at email@example.com and will host additional information sessions.
Fire Chief Bert Lancaster said the bond issue would pay for new equipment, new trucks and a third, centrally located fire station.
"We cover 38 square miles and have over 30,000 residents in our district," Lancaster said. "We pride ourselves in working diligently ... to cover all this area we have with our two fire stations, one on the east side and one on the west side."
Station 1 is at 34W500 Carl Lee Road in St. Charles Township, and Station 2 is at 40W361 Route 64 in Campton Hills.
Lancaster said the district has 16 full-time firefighters, three battalion chiefs, four lieutenants, nine full-time firefighter-emergency medical technicians and 24 part-time firefighter-paramedics or emergency medical technicians.
He said the growing demand for service makes the third station necessary to cover the whole district, which had more than 1,800 calls for service in 2021.
After six failed referendum requests for tax rate increases, the district faces decreased staffing levels as well as outdated equipment and vehicles needing replacing, officials said.
Speer Financial Senior Vice President Anthony Miceli said the district is supported only by property taxes, and those are capped.
"They cannot increase them (property taxes) at will to cover certain expenses," Miceli said. "We're looking at a tax increase of 14 cents (per $100 equalized assessed valuation) to pay off the bonds. That is what we are trying to target to pay off the bond issue over a period of 10 years."
The bond cost to taxpayers would be $37.88 per year for a house with an equalized assessed value of $100,000. For a house valued at $300,000, the bond cost would be $130.27 per year, Miceli said.
"It's a small price to pay for the peace of mind and security that we can protect our loved ones and our homes," LeBlanc said.
Officials said the district already owns the property for a third station.
If the bond issue does not pass, the district will refinance its debt for lower interest but will still face the issue of being able to serve the entire district, officials said. It also will have a potential problem of overlapping calls for service that puts residents at risk.
"We want to be there in a timely manner," Lancaster said. "Our response times are seven to eight minutes on average -- meeting those (industry) standards. But having that third station in the future is going to help us get there quicker."