I’m writing this in the wake of the terrible house fire Nov. 21 northeast of Dixon at an Ogle County subdivision that killed six residents of the home. That event serves as an awful reminder of the absolute need for fire protection, wherever you live.
The Spring Valley Fire Department, a city entity, apparently is looking to bring in new tax revenue from nearby rural residents who might be benefiting from the city fire department without directly paying for it.
If that is the case, the creation of a fire protection district as an entity to collect taxes from untaxed beneficiaries of the city fire department’s protection and services would make sense.
I’m also writing this as a resident of Illinois, which has the most local units of government — nearly 7,000 — of all 50 states. We have more units of government than you can shake a stick at. And Spring Valley leaders are talking about creating one more?
Although I am philosophically opposed to more and more units of government being created, I also think that people who receive the benefit of a vital governmental service – and firefighting is vital – ought to financially support it. If that’s the purpose behind the creation of a new fire protection district in and around Spring Valley, I would have no problem with it.
If I was a resident of Spring Valley, which I am not, my initial reaction to the formation of a new fire protection district would meet with some skepticism because of the financial impact it will have on taxpayers and landowners in the immediate area.
I would want to know who will govern the taxing district if it is formed, and how would taxpayers be able to know how their taxes are being spent if elected officials aren’t able to oversee the district’s spending of their tax dollars.
In theory, citizens of a fire protection district would be able to have some leverage with elected city council members who oversee a district. The Spring Valley fire protection district wouldn’t be governed by elected officials, as I understand it. That could be a problem.
However, if the real purpose of forming a fire protection district is to update equipment to fight fires, that could be a major benefit to homeowners with reduced home insurance rates.
I can not say for sure whether I would be in favor of the fire protection district being formed in the Spring Valley area until more details emerge on its operation and spending of tax dollars that it generates.
Normally, I'm not a fan of creating additional taxing bodies, but in this case it makes sense.
The formation of a fire protection district would spread the financial burden of having a fire department across all the residents of Spring Valley, including those who live in the rural areas. Rural residents benefit from fire departments, so it's only fair that they help pay for them, too.
The formation of the fire protection district would help bring more money into the fire department. It sounds like extra money is needed for the fire department so they can upgrade equipment.
Right now, the fire department is governed by the city of Spring Valley, which isn't an ideal situation. Spring Valley officials likely have enough on their plates without having to oversee the management of the fire department as well. And fire department officials certainly know the ins and outs of their department and budget without having the city step in.