The Rossville Fire Protection District, faced with insufficient funds to repay a loan used to build its fire station, agreed Monday to put a tax increase proposal on the November ballot.

The fire protection district borrowed $850,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture community facilities loan program to build its new fire station located on the north edge of Rossville.

“We believed we had all of our finances in order when we built the new fire station,” said Dean Grimes, president of the fire protection district. “Our initial legal opinion led us to believe everything was fine.”

The fire protection district board originally believed that it could create a special levy to cover half of the loan payments, with the other half coming from the district’s general operating fund. The general operating fund comes from the fire protection district’s property tax levy.

However, recently the fire protection board learned from state officials that it cannot create a special levy to repay a mortgage loan. This ruling has left the fire protection district board scrambling for a way to repay the loan.

After reviewing all of its options, the board decided to issue bonds to repay the loan, which would entail putting a proposal on the November ballot to pay off the bonds during a 20-year period.

The tax rate would be nearly 12 cents per $100 assessed valuation. For example, a home with an assessed valuation of $60,000 would pay an additional $70 a year in taxes. The tax would amount to an additional $1.26 per acre on farmland.

First Midstate of Bloomington will handle the bond issue and the law firm Chapman and Cutler of Chicago will act as bond counsel.

“We have a very well trained fire department here,” Grimes said. “I think the residents of the district will understand our situation and help us out.

“We are one of only two volunteer fire departments in Vermilion County with an ISO rating of five, the other is Catlin,” Grimes said. “With a five rating, which we have maintained for 20 years, it means a reduction of 15 to 20 percent in homeowner’s insurance costs to residents of the district.”

Grimes said after the bonds are repaid, the tax levy will come off because it cannot be used for anything else.

Grimes said that he and other members of the fire protection board will be meeting with community groups and organizations to explain the proposed tax levy and answer any questions residents have.

Recently the representatives of the fire protection district met with the Rossville Community Organization.

“The RCO has no position on this matter,” said Kevin Young, president of the RCO, by e-mail.

“The fire department representatives did not request nor were they given any type of endorsement from the RCO,” Young further elaborated in his email. “The RCO leaves it up to its members to make their own informed decisions.”

Young did say that the RCO asked if there was any way it could help the fire department with its upcoming open house in September. He also said several RCO members offered suggestions to the fire department representatives on how to help and inform the public.

Trending Video

Recommended for you