GODFREY — The Board of Trustees of the Godfrey Fire Protection District will give voters a chance to weigh in on a rescue referendum on the November ballot.
Despite cost-saving measures, including the loss of three career firefighter-EMT positions through attrition, the district is faced with expenditures that have outpaced revenue. The recession has deeply affected the financial health of the district and decimated reserve funds.
More than 95 percent of funding for the district comes from local property taxes. The district is not allowed to collect sales tax or charge fees for service to residents. The district seeks a levy increase of just 5 cents, which would amount to an additional $160,000 in revenue. If applied to the current tax rate for most of Godfrey (7.57), it would be less than a 1 percent increase (7.62). For the owner of a $200,000 home, this would cost less than three dollars a month. It is important to note that the district receives only 9 cents out of every property tax dollar. The school district receives the lion’s share at 64 cents, and other taxing bodies such as Madison County, Lewis and Clark Community College, Hayner Library, village of Godfrey and Godfrey Township make up the rest.
A common misconception is that the Godfrey Fire Protection District is part of the village of Godfrey. In fact, the district was established 45 years before the village of Godfrey and is a separate organization with an elected board of trustees. The district provides emergency services, business inspections, building plan reviews, fire code enforcement, and other services to the village of Godfrey, but receives no funding from them.
This referendum seeks to preserve hard-earned advancements. While operating on an ever-tightening budget, the district has implemented a philosophy of continuous improvement across all four of its core service areas.
Fire protection: In 2016, the Insurance Services Office reduced the fire district public protection classification from 4/9 to 3/3x, placing the district among the top 10 percent of fire departments nationwide. One Godfrey firefighter saw a premium reduction of more than $50 to his homeowner’s policy as a result of this rating improvement.
Emergency medical service: In direct response to an aging population, the district has dramatically improved its response to medical calls. Several new interventions and types of equipment have been implemented over the past few years. The district was the first in the state to launch ResQCPR, the most advanced system available to combat sudden cardiac arrest. Another major advancement in medical care will be rolled out in October.
Public education: The district has embraced an aggressive public education campaign that focuses on fire safety and community CPR. Its annual open house continues to grow every year and its second-grade public education program is well-established. Firefighter-EMTs participate in a multitude of community events and enjoy educating the public.
Emergency management: Through the efforts of the district and the village, Godfrey is recognized by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency as a “ready to respond” community. Godfrey is only the second community in Illinois to receive this designation.
“Our citizens, with their vote, will ultimately decide the level and quality of service that GFPD provides to the community,” Fire Chief Erik Kambarian said. “Our May 31st, 2016, financial report showed the general fund balance at -$157,881.85 (yes, negative). Until the first new property tax revenue was received in June, we were operating completely on reserve funds that are earmarked for building and equipment replacement. This is a very lean organization, and I would invite any Godfrey citizen to meet with me so they can see how cost-effective our service is. The $160,000 in anticipated revenue from this referendum would simply ‘fill in the hole’ and allow us to preserve what we have.”
The referendum is designated specifically for “rescue crews and equipment.” If approved, the district seeks to preserve current staffing, and replace a fire engine and vehicle extrication equipment that are no longer viable for front-line service.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a press release from the Godfrey Fire Protection District.