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Residents asked to hike fire district property tax

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Residents asked to hike fire district property tax
Sopris Sun Staff Report

Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District residents are being asked to permanently increase their property taxes by approximately 50 percent on mail-in ballots that the Garfield County clerk and recorder will send out later this month.
If the ballot issue is approved, the total mill levy will stand at 12.038, according to a resolution approved by the five-member district board in September. The new levy will combine a 2.233 temporary hike voters approved in 2011, with a new levy of 3.902.
The increased tax will raise up to $1.08 million the first year for the 325-square-mile district, starting in 2014.
The resolution states that the tax hike’s purpose is for funding the costs of:
• Maintaining current levels of essential fire fighting services, and;
• Maintaining current levels of essential ambulance and paramedic services.
A written comment supporting the ballot issue, which is includes in the 2013 Tabor Notice of General Information, states that without the new funding, the district will experience a decline in revenues resulting in:
• Extended response time for fire and ambulance calls;
• Delayed equipment replacement;
• Potential reduction of paid staff;
• Elimination of community education programs such as CPR classes;
• Elimination of (the) initial attack wildfire program;
• Increase in ISO rating resulting in an increase in fire insurance premiums;
• Reduced opening burning regulations.
The district received no written comments opposing the ballot issue.
The Carbondale & Rural Fire Project District provides fire and ambulance services from Marble to Missouri Heights, and operates six stations with 20 paid staff members and 75 volunteers.
“The District has operated under a modest growth operational budget for the past five years while acquiring two fire trucks to meet ISO standards,” the written comment states. “With declining property values, the District has had no increase in tax revenues while facing a steady increase in calls for service for the past five years.”
Those annual call for service, according to the statement, break down as follows:
• 2013 (estimated) – 1,208
• 2012 – 1,168
• 2011 – 950
• 2010 – 1,069
• 2009 – 1,112
• 2008 – 1,201.
The district operates with full-certified paramedics 24/7, with an average “turn-out” time of four minutes for ambulance calls. Fire board chairman Gene Schilling told The Sopris Sun that without EMTs stationed on shifts at the fire stations, off-site crews might have to respond to calls that would increase turn-out times to five to 10 minutes.
Schilling said most of the costs related to the district are personnel related, and cannot comment at this time where the cuts will come.
The additional tax would add $31 per $100,000 of residential property tax value over last year’s tax.
On a related note, the Glenwood Springs and Gypsum fire districts are also asking for property tax hikes.
Also on the ballot for voters inside the Carbondale town limits is whether to tax sales on marijuana at licensed outlets.
Election ballots will be mailed to all active voters on Oct. 15-18. The last day to request a ballot to be mailed is Oct. 28. Drop off sites and voter service polling centers will open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 2. Election day service polling centers will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.