Fire Department Referendum November 2020
September 15, 2020
In the spring election of 2020, the First Fire Protection District of Antioch went to the voters to seek permission to approve a tax increase in the form of a referendum question. This increase was being sought to address the growing need to fund infrastructure shortfalls and to increase staffing levels to cover the growing call volume on the east side of the Fire District. Our efforts fell short and the voters felt this was not the time to approve an increase.
Since that election the Fire District has navigated through the COVID-19 Pandemic that had mandated many protocol changes in how we respond to calls for emergency service and added additional monetary strains on the department. Operationally many infrastructure needs were again put on hold and we entered our new budget year with some uncertainty. The pandemic had shuttered the doors to businesses throughout the Antioch Community and left many of our residents out of work.
Due to the shelter in place, calls for service in April and May were below years past but soon began to return to normal expectations. The Fire District Trustees and Fire Chief began to plan and assess how another run at a tax increase would affect the Antioch Community. While none of the needs and growth within the Fire District had changed, the discussion and concerns would always come back to the physical and financial health of our Community. Could our citizens see the need to support and maintain a growing need for service? With the uncertain employment status of our citizens, could they afford the additional tax? Can our business community afford a tax increase after being shut down with the potential future shutdowns in the coming year? How much longer can the Fire Department continue to put off the growing list of infrastructure needs? What can we do to support our business community?
Some discussions were deliberated at length and others were a fast and easy decision. A lengthier discussion was how to help the businesses. While it would impact revenue needed for our operational budget the Fire District Board directed the Fire Chief to develop a budget that did not include the revenue collected from Fire Department safety inspections of the businesses. The Board voted to suspend these fees for the 2020-21 budget year to do our part to assist businesses in our community while insisting the Fire Inspector carryout this valuable service to the community. A longer discussion is ongoing, how long can we continue to put off the infrastructure and personnel needs? Since it would be a year before a successful referendum would generate any additional income, the Board directed the Chief to do what he can to continue to prioritize the needs of the department with the current income revenue.
The other questions were fairly easy. Unanimously, the Fire District agreed, this is not the time to ask for taxpayer support in the means of a tax increase. Discussions were in line with hopes our community will take note that we are doing what we can with what we have while realizing there continues to be an ever growing need to repair and maintain the infrastructure that exists. Further they recognize that the growing number of calls for service will require additional personnel in the non-traditional part-time firefighter model used in Antioch. The entire Fire District Board agreed that while there is an urgent need to seek additional revenue, this is not the time for a tax increase. They further agreed to monitor the health of our community to determine if spring of 2021 would be the time to ask our community again to support the growing needs of their Fire Department.
Please direct any questions to Fire Chief Jon Cokefair, firstname.lastname@example.org.