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Algonquin-Lake in the Hills fire district makes case for tax increase referendum

LAKE IN THE HILLS — Officials from the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District said the district's loss of funding from commercial fire alarms and added costs from the Affordable Care Act are behind the upcoming referendum to create a new tax fund for the district.

The proposed emergency and rescue tax, which will be on the primary ballot on March 15, would add a 0.1 percent tax on the equalized assessed value of property within the district.

The tax would add about $61 to the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home who takes the homestead exemption.

That would increase the fire district's portion of that resident's tax bill by about 10 percent, based on tax rates from last year.

In all, it would raise about $900,000 to the department's tax revenue on top of the current projected revenue of about $8 million.

The numbers were presented during an information session Wednesday night. Additional information sessions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and Feb. 10 at the fire district headquarters at 1020 W. Algonquin Road.

Van Dorpe said in his presentation the department needs a revenue boost because a federal court decision in 2015 forced the department to stop providing radio frequency fire alarms to commercial property in its district. Providing that service netted the department $407,000 at its peak in 2013.

"In a very real sense, the reason we're here today asking for what we're asking is because of this," Van Dorpe said. "If I could make $400,000 reappear, we would be looking at other options."

The chief said the Affordable Care Act would require the district to provide health care to part-time employees at an estimated cost of $200,000.

He also cited a long-term decline in property values, a low consumer price index and rises in medical insurance and workers' compensation.

Van Dorpe's presentation also said the department had reclassified and eliminated positions to try to make ends meet, but those measures would not be enough in the coming years.

The department is not currently setting aside any money to pay for the replacement of equipment, he said.

The fire district operates three fire stations and has 49 full-time and 15 to 21 part-time employees, Van Dorpe said.

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