By utilizing a new state law on consolidation, the DuPage County Board proposed the dissolution of a local fire protection district Wednesday morning.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the board use a new consolidation tool provided by Public Act 98-0126 to begin the process to eliminate the Fairview Fire Protection District, which provides fire service to 187 parcels of property located in unincorporated Downers Grove.
The new law provides DuPage with unprecedented authority to dissolve, by ordinance, duplicative or inefficient County-appointed agencies, according to a DuPage County press release.
“As we continue our mission to reduce the size, scope and cost of local government, today, DuPage County became the first board in the state to propose the dissolution of a unit of government," Cronin said in the news release. "Through the Fire Protection District board members’ diligence, we identified a viable solution that ensures sustainable fire suppression for years to come while eliminating more than $100,000 in debt."
The Fairview Fire Protection District does not own fire equipment nor employ staff; instead its board members levy an annual property tax and maintain a contractual agreement with the Village of Downers Grove to provide emergency response.
An assessment, that the DuPage County Board prompted, concluded that the district’s finances were not sustainable as it owed the Village of Downers Grove more than $100,000 for unpaid fire protection services. Due to tax caps, the district would not be able to resolve the unpaid obligation without a referendum from voters to seek additional money.
For more than a year, the County, Village of Downers Grove and the Fairview Fire Protection District have been working on a solution to the district’s financial situation.
Through a partnership with the governmental entities, a municipal Special Service Area (SSA) has been created where residents pay the village directly for services they receive. The SSA also eliminates administrative overhead that maintained the fire district.
“The Fairview Fire Protection District board members should be commended for their tireless efforts that engaged and informed residents about the financial issues the district faces," Cronin said. "In addition, the District 2 County Board members and Downers Grove mayor and village manager were instrumental in bringing this solution to fruition, This is a testament of what can be done when we all work together to solve problems in our community."
The dissolution is expected to save Fairview taxpayers more than $100,000 in addition to costs associated with professional services such as attorney and audit fees.
In August, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 494 (now known as PA 98-0126) which eliminates barriers that prohibit consolidation and shared services.
It impacts county-appointed governmental agencies that provide public services such as sanitary, mosquito abatement, fire protection (without full-time employees) and street lighting.
According to the state law (PA 98-0126), multiple steps must be completed before the entity is formally dissolved.
An audit will be performed on the fire district and an ordinance must be passed by the County Board calling for the formal dissolution. Following the passage of the ordinance, a trustee in dissolution will be appointed to finalize affairs of the district.
After a five month waiting period, the district will be formally dissolved.
The dissolution of Fairview Fire Protection District falls in line with the County’s mission to streamline local government.
Source: DuPage County press release