GLEN ELLYN – With the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company in need of a more reliable revenue stream, the village will explore adding a fee to residents' water bills after a majority of trustees said they favored that option over increasing property taxes.
While the exact fee structure is not yet decided, amounts could be based on building size for commercial properties and single- versus multi-family setup for residential units, according to village records. Another option would be to base fees on the size of a property's water meter.
Current village estimates place the proposed annual fee for Volunteer Fire Company funding between $90 and $110 for a single-family home in Glen Ellyn.
In the past, a majority of funding for the fire company has come from donations through its annual money drive. However, that method has left the company with aging trucks and the inability to replace them.
The Fire Company currently has two 20-year-old trucks that are due to be replaced for about $500,000 each, according to the company's fleet replacement schedule. One of the company's large ladder trucks will need to be retired in a few years as well and will cost about $1.3 million to replace.
Other company expenses include additional support staff to perform clerical work and a potential new downtown fire station, which village officials expect will need to be built within the next 10 years.
"The Fire Company continues to provide an incredible service and benefits to the community," Village Manager Mark Franz said. "Providing a new dedicated revenue source will significantly improve our ability to sustain the volunteer approach to providing fire service."
Village Trustees Diane McGinley and Tim O'Shea said they favored the fee option at a meeting of the village board on Nov. 12, citing the impact a property tax increase would have on commercial properties.
"I think by putting it in a fee-based structure, it forces the future boards to take a hard look at budgets," McGinley said. "Make sure that before you increase anything that you have rationale for doing so other than cost of living is going up."
Although Trustee Dean Clark leaned toward the property tax option, he said he could support either, leaving Trustee Tim Elliott as the meeting's lone dissenter. Elliott worried the fee structure would place a greater burden on residents of a lower socioeconomic status than the property tax, he said.
A property tax increase also would provide some residents with the opportunity to receive a credit on their federal income tax returns, Elliott said.
"Something is better than nothing, and I would prefer to arm our residents with at least the potential of getting a corresponding credit," he said.
Based on the needs of the Fire Company, the village is proposing to generate $870,000 in 2014-15 through the added fee on residents' water bills. Combined with other expected sources of revenue, that would provide the company with the about $1.1 million it needs to cover projected capital and operating expenses for the year.
Total costs and revenues are expected to increase over the years, according to the village's five-year plan for financial support of the company.
Village staff will develop a more detailed fee structure for the funding and explore whether fee payments could be considered charitable donations to the Fire Company.
While trustees agreed other taxing bodies in Glen Ellyn would be exempt from paying a fee, more information will be needed to determine whether nonprofits, including religious institutions, would be excluded as well.
Water bills could be modified beginning Jan. 1.
Property tax changes
Since $870,000 in additional funding for the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company will not need to be generated through the village of Glen Ellyn's 2013 property tax levy, the levy as proposed will provide $11,518,349 for the village and library.
In comparison to last year, the proposed tax increase to the village and library portion of the property tax bill is 2.7 percent, versus an increase of 10.9 percent had the Fire Company funding been included, said Kevin Wachtel, the village's finance director.
Tax levy information was presented at the village board meeting Nov. 12 for a non-binding "straw vote" to determine which option trustees would formally consider at their Nov. 25 meeting.
Trustee Tim Elliott was the only board member to vote against moving forward with the property tax ordinance that would exclude Fire Company funding.