Orland Fire District will maintain “all services” despite delayed county tax collections
The Orland Fire Protection District on Tuesday said there will be no reduction in emergency fire response services as a result of the inability of Cook County to collect taxes during which fund government unit services like the fire district, Fire Chief Michael Schofield told the board Tuesday, July 26, 2020. The Fire District has a strong financial base and will be able to cover all services despite the lengthy delays in tax funding collections which county officials said may not take place until sometime at the end of the year.
The Orland Fire Protection District will not face financial hardships or implement any service cutbacks as Cook County struggles to overcome a months-long delay in the collection of taxes, Fire Chief Michael Schofield reported to the board on Tuesday July 26.
Tax collections by Cook County account for 85 percent of the Fire District’s budget which covers all of its extensive firefighting and emergency response services from responding to fires or medical emergencies.
Schofield said the district’s strong financial health will cover all costs for emergency services and not require new taxes or borrowings, options that are being considered by many other government units because of the county’s delayed tax collections.
“We will be operating at our full capacity responding to every emergency regardless of the county’s inability to collect and disburse taxes due to our district and its residents,” Schofield said, noting many other government bodies will face serious financial hardships.
“We continue to monitor the delayed tax installment collections. Villages have the ability to bring in sales taxes. School districts have some ability to get some funding from the state. We don’t. Talking to several fire districts in Cook County, we are one of the only if not the only fire district that won’t have to go out for tax anticipation warrants.”
Tax anticipation warrants are often guaranteed by property taxes or borrowings at high interest rates that add costs to government unit expenditures.
Normally, taxes are paid and collected by Cook County on August 1, and the money is disbursed to the various government units. But because of system snafu’s, the collection date has been indefinitely delayed “until the end of the year,” county officials said last week.
“The money that we received in March and April will have to last us all year and it will,” Schofield assured the public.
“I would like to say thank you to the board, to Kerry (Sullivan), to our finance department, to the chiefs and to our entire staff who have all been working together to make sure we get through the rest of the year. As we know, the interest rates are high. Tax anticipation warrants would be very expensive. It is a shame that these taxing districts are going to have to pay more money because Cook County could not get their act together with their new system.”
County officials said they will provide loans to government units that can’t cover their services as a result of the delayed collection and disbursement of the tax funds to manage their continued operations.
Many governments may have to drastically cut back on their services to the public if they do not have the funds to cover those services.
Fire District Budget Director Kerry Sullivan said the district will not need to borrow any money from the county because the district’s finances are exemplary and sound.
“We have some cash protections because we have been told that Cook County may not have property tax bills due until the end of the year,” Sullivan told board members, assuring the board that all of the district’s services will continue without disruptions or cutbacks.
“At this time, we feel that we will not need to get additional debt to fund operations and we have sufficient cash flow.”
The Orland Fire Protection District has been recognized nationally for his fast and effective emergency response services, all as a result of the leadership and policies of the Board of Trustees, led by former President James Hickey and current President Chris Evoy, and leadership of Chief Schofield.
“I am very proud of the hard work that our Fire Department and finance department have put into addressing this problem caused by Cook County,” Evoy said.
“We have worked hard to ensure that our finances are transparent, and that our residents get the most emergency services from their tax dollars. There’s no question that this district is one of the most fiscally sound in the country.”
Under that leadership, the Orland Fire Protection District is recognized as having a 65 percent save rate for individuals who suffer heart attacks. The national save rate is only 10 to 15 percent.
The OFPD is Certified with ISO-1 and as an Internationally Accredited Fire Department, one of only 100 in the United States and Canada.
“That comes from giving our firefighters the best training and providing the best equipment,” Evoy said, noting the OFPD Pension fund is 110 percent fully funded, one of the highest int he nation. District’s with lower pension funding levels are almost always forced to increase tax rates to compensate for the underfunding.
Additionally, the Government Finance Officers Association (OFPD) Budget has been recognized since 2008 with the GFOA’s Award for Excellence in Government Finance, a prestigious national honor not only for the Fire District but for every resident of the Fire District.
Schofield also reported that COVID infections among firefighters “are up but are not anywhere close to what the district has seen in the past.” He said the district has managed to continue necessary staffing levels despite the higher COVID infections.
For more information visit www.OrlandFire.org