ROSCOE - Increased call volumes and decreasing available public safety workers will see the Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District ask on Nov. 6 for a new property tax to expand a pension fund for district firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
Harlem-Roscoe Chief Don Shoevlin said Wednesday he has no intentions to take the department from a paid-on-call/part-time department to a full-time roster. Voters will be asked if they would support an additional property tax of $1.72 per $100,000 in assessed property value, an anticipated increase of $33,852 overall to the property tax levy from $5,031,728 to $5,065,580, or just over a .005 percent increase. The department has 61 part-time fire personnel, with around 20 administrative staff. Currently there are only three full-time positions in the department. The referendum question looks to put the fire protection district is a strong position if the department does ever make the switch to full-time, and brings the department in line with a state mandate requiring all public safety agencies have a pension fund.
Currently only one department member, a former deputy chief, is part of the department's pension plan.
"We need to have it in place if we need to start offering full-time benefits," Shoevlin said. "We are just remaining proactive with this. With our call volume up and our pool of volunteers decreasing, right now its a tough way to work with part-time people. I want to maintain the model we have in place, and I want to keep doing this as long as I can."
Shoevlin said he expected the department to reach somewhere between 3,400 and 3,500 calls for service by the end of the year, up from the last two years. In 2017, the department responded to 3,077 calls and 2,935 in 2016, according to department data.
"There's nothing to hide with this," Shoevlin said. "If we had to hire full-time people, it would become a larger burden on the taxpayers."
The referendum is listed on Winnebago County ballots for the Nov. 6 general election.