FOX LAKE – For the first time in 37 years, the Fox Lake Fire Protection District is asking residents to increase its taxing authority.
The fire protection district, which covers 17 Lake County townships, as well as parts of McHenry, Lakemoor and Spring Grove, is looking to increase its taxing rate from 0.133 to 0.350 through a referendum on the April ballot. The potential increase would generate between $800,000 and $900,000 more for the district, Chief Ron Hoehne said.
Hoehne said the increase would go toward hiring more personnel and replacing outdated ambulances. He said the district had to take out low-interest, five-year loans for the last two ambulance purchases and staffing has hit dangerously low levels with only two personnel at Station No. 3 and Station No. 4 at times.
"That is a practice we can't keep doing," Hoehne said. "The biggest thing we want to impress on people is we don’t want to have to come back to the people and do it again. We want this to keep us intact and moving forward for the next 20 years and beyond."
The increase would mean a roughly $72 increase for every $100,000 of equalized assessed home value, Hoehne said. Lake County residents will bear the majority of the expense as McHenry County residents only account for roughly $13,000 of the total budget, Hoehne said.
Failing to pass the referendum could have dire consequences, Hoehne said, especially with the lack of qualified part-time volunteer workers, who have greatly decreased in numbers over the years.
"We'll be having to look at layoffs or closing stations and that's what we don't want to do," Hoehne said. "We have too large of an area we have to cover from the Wisconsin border to Route 120."