OGLE COUNTY Voters agree to pay for SRO, more emergency services

April 4, 2019 GMT

Ogle County voters apparently were in the mood to loosen their purse strings Tuesday, saying yes to four referendums that will raise their property taxes.

Oregon voters agreed to a tax hike to help fund the cost of a full-time school resource officer.

The measure asking for 6 cents per $100 EAV passed by a vote of 195 to 147.

“We’re very pleased that the community supported us having a school resource officer and being able to help out with the school district on that,” Mayor Ken Williams said. 

The city and school district entered into an agreement last fall to create the position in the wake of an incident at Dixon High School last May when a student was taken into custody by an SRO after firing shots at a teacher during graduation practice.

Oregon Police Sgt. Randy Cropp assumed the SRO duties at Oregon High School on Jan. 3. 

According to the agreement, the school district will pay 70 percent of the cost, and the city will pick up the rest.

The referendum asks for a maximum increase of 6 cents to cover the city’s share.

Williams said the city will not levy at the maximum, however, because only 2 cents is needed.

State statutes require the referendum question to be worded with the maximum allowable amount, he said.

The 2-cent increase translates into $19 to 20 a year on a house valued at $100,000.

That will bring in an estimated $26,000 to $28,000 a year, the amount needed for the city’s portion, Williams said.

The tax increase will appear on property tax bills in 2020.

Also Tuesday, Mount Morris Fire Protection District residents gave a resounding yes to two referendums that will help maintain services for both the ambulance and fire department.

Voters approved the ambulance referendum 347 votes to 93 and the fire question 327 votes to 110.

Both referendums asked for a tax increase of 10 cents, from 30 cents to 40 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation. 

“I’m thrilled to know the community is behind the emergency services provided by the district,” said Scott Diehl, fire district board president. “I’m very pleased. It would have been a real concern otherwise.”

The increase means the real estate taxes on a $100,000 home will increase by about $67 a year, not factoring in exemptions.

Fire district officials asked for their first increase in 15 years because of a shrinking tax base and escalating expenses.

Diehl said the district’s EAV already has decreased by $10 million since 2012 and could take another hit next year when the value of the shuttered Quad Graphics plant is expected to go down drastically due to its recent sale.

In 2012, the district’s EAV was $59.8 million. It dipped to $47.1 million in 2015 and now sits at $49.3 million.

The former printing plant now is assessed at $906,471, which gives it a fair market value of $2.7 million. It was sold last May for $200,000, though. 

The fire department and its ambulance serve about 5,000 residents in portions of five townships — Mount Morris, Pine Creek, Lincoln, Rockvale, and Oregon-Nashua — an area of 45 square miles.

The total budget for the district is $700,000 annually with ambulance fees bringing in about $260,000 per year.

Each referendum will generate $49,500, for a total of $99,000.