Maeystown fire funding on ballot

Among several other items that will be put to voters in the consolidated election this Tuesday, April 4, Maeystown residents will decide on two referendums concerning their fire protection district.

As published in last week’s issue of the Republic-Times, the first of these items is a “proposition to approve new tax rate for emergency and rescue crews and equipment.”

This proposition, should it pass, would authorize the Maeystown Fire Protection District to levy a special property tax of no more than .10 percent.

For additional context, the ballot item explains that the current amount of extendable taxes given the current limiting rate is $122,695. This proposition would increase that figure to $156,288.

It goes on to say the current amount of additional tax for a single-family residence valued at $100,000 is estimated at $33 for 2023.

The second item, “proposition to increase limiting rate,” would allow for the limiting rate to increase by 0.085 percent, which would set the limiting rate at 0.45 percent of a property’s value.

As the previous ballot item explained, the approximate amount of taxes extendable at the current limiting rate is $122,695, which would increase to $151,169 should the proposition be approved by voters.

For a single-family residence with a value of $100,000, the additional extendable tax is estimated at $28 per year.

According to Maeystown Fire Chief Lynden Prange, the fire protection district is simply looking to balance its income with expenses.

“It’s just to keep up with the cost it takes to maintain the fire district,” Prange said. “We’re not looking at any major capital purchases whatsoever.”

As Prange said, this can be complicated for communities in the county like Maeystown, which are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law.

PTELL, as the name suggests, limits the growth of a taxing district’s property tax levy (what the district asks for in December) to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

Prange noted the Waterloo and Columbia fire districts are exempt from PTELL as those cities have properties in St. Clair County, but communities like Maeystown and Valmeyer have to request permission from voters for any big increases to the tax levy.

This increase, Prange said, is necessary as inflation has made the district’s expenses 8.7 percent greater than its income.

Prange said the district, under PTELL, is only allowed to collect 5 percent of the income that’s allotted, but the district ultimately only gets 1.5 to 2.5 percent because of PTELL’s limiting rate.

“We’re trying to raise that PTELL limit up so we actually can get the 5 percent that we should be getting from the taxes,” Prange said.

While Prange said the increased funds are necessary, he added the fire district is generally functioning fine at the moment.

“Right now, we’re doing as good as we can do,” Prange said. “We’re not in any kind of financial difficulty right now. But down the road, we’ve charted this out and our district treasurer has done an excellent job of charting this, and in the not-too-distant future, our expenses are gonna be way more than our income. As of right now, no, we’re fine, but we’re looking at down the road.”

The future could come with quite a few expenses, as Prange explained. The district is looking at the possibility of replacing its fleet of trucks, one of which is he said is 22 years old, having surpassed its National Fire Protection Association life expectancy.

There are comparatively more minor but nevertheless important concerns for this district as well – particularly as the cost of personal protection equipment increases, according to Prange.

“We have to make sure their gear is up to par,” Prange said. “We have to make sure that our breathing apparatuses are up to par. We’ve applied for many, many federal grants, and unfortunately we keep getting turned down. So, our only recourse now is to look to increase our income through taxes.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web