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Homer Glen residents say nay to deer culling, Palos referendum squeaks by

Homer Glen voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, said they oppose deer culling in local forest preserves in unofficial results in Tuesday’s advisory referendum on Will County’s culling program, and Palos Fire Protection District voters narrowly voted in a referendum seeking support for a higher property tax rate.

With 15 of 16 precincts reporting, 62 percent of Homer Glen voters rejected the idea of deer culling while 38 percent supported it.

Palos district voters appeared to have passed the district referendum in unofficial returns, 1,886-1,814, in a night that had plenty of twists and turns.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Palos Chief Steve Carr said. “This was not an easy decision for the taxpayers.”

Carr and members of his staff and the community watched the internet totals closely until close to 9:30 p.m. when the 14th precinct was finally recorded. “We assumed nothing until all of the votes were tallied,” he said.

Carr said some absentee ballots have still not been counted but added that it’s his understanding there are relatively few of them.

If the Palos measure had failed, officials warned, the district could have been forced to shutter one of its two firehouses.

The referendum authorizes the district to raise its annual tax revenues by $1.9 million to $6.2 million by a tax rate increase of 25 cents, to 80 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation of property, according to the ballot measure.

That means that for every $100,000 of fair market value, as listed on the tax bill, residents will see an $82.50 increase in taxes. A home with a fair market value of $200,000 will see a $165 increase.

Last April, voters rejected a 19-cent tax rate increase by a 1,281-1,017 count.

Since then, finances have been on a downward spiral at the two-station district, which serves Palos Park and parts of Palos Heights, Orland Park and unincorporated Palos Township. Carr reduced staff in January and has closed Station 2 intermittently.

“It’s my promise that emergency services will be restored as rapidly as possible in anticipation of receiving the additional funding in October of 2013,” he said.

In Homer Glen, Will County Forest Preserve District Commissioner Kathleen Konicki has said the results of the deer culling referendum “will be as accurate as possible read on the values and sentiments of the residents in my district.”

The Homer Glen Republican has long opposed the deer culling program since its inception, arguing that it is inhumane and unnecessary. She has argued that the program goes against Homer Glen’s village motto of “Community and
Nature in Harmony.”

Homer Glen village trustees approved putting the advisory referendum on the ballot. Some noted that residents have come to enjoy seeing deer in their backyards or in the forest preserves. The deer culling program has limited the sightings of deer.

Forest preserve officials, however, note that the preserves in Homer Glen ­and in other areas ­ are suffering from an overpopulation of deer and that the culling program is necessary to protect the eco-system of the preserves.

In 2011, the district’s deer culling program eliminated 135 deer. This year, 99 deer at six preserve sites were culled through the program. The deer culling program was cut short this year because of the weather and lack of snow. A snow cover helps make it easier to see the deer and to lure the deer to the bait.

Marcy DeMauro, executive director of the Will County Forest Preserve District, said the advisory referendum would not have any impact on the deer culling program until later this year when the program starts again. She said it would be up to the forest preserve commissioners to decide if the program would be changed or suspended in specific preserves.

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