We at the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District want to share information with you concerning the referendum for tax levy on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The following are some facts relating to why we are asking for an increase in the fire district tax levy and why now.
With a call volume of 4,182 in 2019, Bourbonnais Fire Protection District is the second busiest fire and EMS service provider in Kankakee County, second only to Kankakee City Fire (6,756). With an average increase in Fire/EMS calls of 5 percent per year, Bourbonnais will break the 5,000-call rate by 2023/2024, putting additional pressure on our operations and fiscal well-being.
The Bourbonnais Fire Protection District has not had a referendum increase since 1975 which was used to create an ambulance levy, and we have the added burden of being a district falling under PTELL (Property Tax Extension Law Limit), creating a tax cap. Without the support of our residents at the polls on Nov. 3, our hands are tied.
Some of the threats to our department outside of our control include:
• Increases in call volume at the same time we are asked to support surrounding agencies who also lack manpower and provide mutual aid requests.
• Employee retention is more challenging as professionals leave for higher wages at other departments, such as City of Kankakee, Manteno and suburbs to our north. This puts added pressure on recruitment, especially since our starting pay is lower.
• We will also need to increase some compensation due to new minimum wage laws eventually reaching $15 per hour.
• Additional income outside of property taxes is a challenge. Insurance companies often do not pay the entire bill submitted and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements do not cover our operational expense, all while balancing increased costs of daily operations.
• We also risk potential reduction of federal grants available to assist fire agencies.
Please know we have been proactive to mitigate these risks by employing cost-saving measures. We have refurbished fire apparatus rather than purchasing new units, completed an LED light project at the station to reduce electrical costs, entered into an IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) with River Valley Metro to lower the price on fuel and have participated in group purchasing with other agencies.
Bourbonnais Fire Protection District needs to operate with the future in mind as well. We expect increased staffing needs and the potential need for a second station due to increased call volumes. These will be needed to ensure safe and responsible response times as the village and surrounding area continue to grow and develop.
We also want to continue to improve ISO ratings which will help our district see a reduction in property insurance premiums.
Even though we did receive a Federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant to assist in adding three firefighter/paramedics, the cost of those salaries and benefits will be placed on the district at the end of the grant term.
All of us at the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District hope this information will help disseminate reliable information when voters question whether or not they should be supporting this referendum. If voters have any additional questions, please call Chief St. Louis or Deputy Chief Keener at 815-935-9670.
President, Board of Trustees
Bourbonnais Fire Protection District