The Murrayville Fire Department held an informational meeting at the grade school last night answering questions from the public about the proposed district.
Murrayville Fire Chief John Sonneborn says the fire department is currently operated and financed by the village.
“Murrayville residents are taxed now and that supports the fire department," says Sonneborn. "But as everything becomes more expensive the tax base is just a small town that can't afford it anymore."
Sonneborn says the financial support goes toward fire apparatus, equipment, protective gear and training.
“Everything we have has been handed down from other fire departments, so it was already used when we got it," says Sonneborn. "With this we could get newer equipment, train our people better and keep our people safer with the newer equipment. We're just family guys like anybody else. We want to go out and help your family but we also want to come home to ours."
Murrayville firefighters respond to calls within the village and a service area of about 55 square miles. The proposed fire district would cover that same area. Sonneborn says the fire department bills for service calls outside the village, but many people don’t pay and the payments that are received don’t generate enough revenue to support the fire department.
Sonneborn says if voters approve a fire protection district, it will be allowed to levy $90,000. He says the projected tax rate will be about $4.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“Assessed value is a third of the market value of your house," says Sonneborn. "Farm ground is assessed a lot differently and it's not going to be as extreme as people think. They need to get their tax bill out and take what they already pay in taxes and times it by .0045 to find out how much it's going to cost them."
Murrayville resident James Van Giesen says he went to last night’s meeting in support of the proposed fire district.
“We pay money for taxes all over and we don't see where it goes," says Van Giesen. "This is something that we can see. In your own community I don't think anyone should begrudge taxes when they can see it."
Sonneborn says if the new district and tax base to support it are not approved, the village will have to reconsider how it operates and supports the fire department.
“Several things could happen," says Sonneborn. "The state could come in and close us down because our equipment is below par. The [village] of Murrayville could say we're no longer going out to the outlying areas of the district. They could force us to stay home. Or they could end up closing it because we couldn't afford to keep it going."
Residents in the proposed district will see two questions on the ballot:
The first asking if they are either for or against the fire protection district.
The second is a yes or no question asking “under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Levy, may an aggregate extension not to exceed $90,000 be made for the Murrayville Fire Protection District for the 2013 levy year?”
Both propositions must pass for the fire district to take effect.