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Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District asks again for tax increase referendum

LAKE IN THE HILLS – A referendum to add a new property tax for the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District will be back on the ballot in November after it failed in the March election.

Fire Chief Peter Van Dorpe said the referendum hasn’t changed, asking for a 0.1 percent emergency and rescue tax, which would add about $65 on the property tax bill of the owner of a $200,000 house.

District officials have said the money is needed because of a loss of revenue from the commercial fire alarm business and added costs from the Affordable Care Act.

Without more funds, the estimated 40,000 residents the department serves in Algonquin and Lake in the Hills will see reduced service, Van Dorpe said.

“We’re very transparent,” Van Dorpe said. “You can see the whole budget on our website. We simply need more money if we’re going to continue to provide the level of service we are providing today.”

In March, the referendum was rejected by 53.2 percent of voters. If the tax is passed, it would generate about $800,000 a year, Van Dorpe said.

To keep a balanced budget, Van Dorpe said he’s already had to cut administrative staff in half and reduce equipment. The department also is not setting aside any extra money, he said, and has 15 on-duty personnel, lower than the National Fire Protection Association’s recommendation of 17.

“We don’t have a crisis right now, and I’m trying to be ahead of the crisis,” Van Dorpe said.

Because the district is not a municipal department, adding a property tax is the only option it has to add revenue. The only other option the district has is to make more cuts, Van Dorpe said.

Norm Bemis is leading efforts to spread the word about the referendum through Friends of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District.

As an Algonquin resident and Palatine firefighter, Bemis said he realizes the importance of having timely emergency response intervention.

“Maybe the last time people just didn’t realize it and didn’t know it was out there,” Bemis said. “And everyone’s initial reaction is ‘No more taxes.’”

This time, Bemis is helping to spread the word about the referendum and educating people on why he believes it’s needed.

Information sessions on the referendum will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21, Oct. 27 and Nov. 2 at the fire department, 1020 W. Algonquin Road, Lake in the Hills. For information, visit http://www.alfpd.org/.

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