Sometimes units of local government want, need or must place questions of public policy directly before the voters for a decision.
Voters in the village of Oswego and the Oswego and Bristol-Kendall fire protection districts will decide issues of taxation and representation in the June 28 primary.
For the village of Oswego, the question is whether to impose a real estate transfer tax to help pay for the infrastructure costs to connect the municipality with the DuPage Water Commission system.
Capital costs of linking to the DuPage network and tapping into Lake Michigan are estimated at more than $75 million.
The referendum question asks: “Shall the Village of Oswego impose a real estate transfer tax at a rate of $3 per $1,000 of value to be paid by the buyer of the real estate transferred, with the revenue of the proposed transfer tax to be used for construction and maintenance of the Village of Oswego water system, including connection to Lake Michigan water, and lessening the increase in future water rates?”
The tax is to be applied to first-time buyers of homes and other real estate in the village. Current Oswego property owners who purchase a new home in Oswego would be exempt if they have lived in their home for a year or longer.
The tax is expected to generate about $500,000 a year and could go into effect as early as Aug. 1. Without the revenue, water rate increases likely would be needed, village officials said.
The same voters, along with many more living in the sprawling 53-square-mile Oswego Fire Protection District, will be faced with another tax question. They have faced it before.
The fire district’s board of trustees is a making a second attempt to sell voters on a rescue tax to help fund its operations.
Currently, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 pays about $600 a year in property taxes. The proposed rescue tax would increase the tax rate by 0.10%, resulting in a $99 yearly increase for the owner of that home.
The fire protection district serves about 70,000 residents from four stations manned by 66 firefighter-paramedics, as well as the command staff.
Fire officials note that the district’s population was 27,000 residents two decades ago and that the dramatic growth has tripled the number of calls to which the district’s firefighter-paramedics respond each year.
Last year, the department went on 6,346 calls for service, a record, compared with about 2,000 calls in 2002.
Fire district officials said that without the additional revenue, the district’s ability to maintain the current level of service will be jeopardized, with a decrease in ambulance availability and an increase in response times. The revenue also is needed to purchase and maintain firefighting equipment, they said.
The district maintains two stations in Oswego, one in Montgomery and one in Plainfield. There are more than 20,000 residential homes, 1,100 commercial properties and 25 school buildings in the district.
Voters in the Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District covering the city of Yorkville and surrounding unincorporated areas will decide an issue not of taxation but of representation.
“Shall the trustees of the Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District be elected rather than appointed? That is the question to be decided at the polls.
While the Oswego transfer tax and Oswego fire rescue tax are being placed on the ballot by units of local government, the Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District question is a citizen initiative.
Local conservative political action committee Stamp Act PAC gathered signatures and filed the ballot question.
Currently, the five-member fire protection district board is appointed by the Kendall County Board chairman with the advice and consent of the County Board.
The ballot initiative comes in the wake of October’s controversial decision by the fire district trustees to terminate a probationary firefighter-paramedic who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing for the virus, as required under an executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker.
The trustees essentially said they had no choice but to follow the state guidelines and accept the advice of their legal counsel.
The district maintains three fire stations and is staffed by 24 full-time employees, 30 part-time individuals and nine contract paramedics.
Early voting for the primary gets underway May 19.
Source: The Daily Chronicle