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Voters reject fire district mill levy hike

Locations: News Published

(Editor’s note: The Carbondale
Fire District public hearing on the 2014 budget was scheduled for Nov. 6, after
The Sopris Sun went to press this week. The Sun will post an update from the
hearing on its website at on Nov. 8).

By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Reporter

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After approving a temporary tax hike two years ago, Carbondale
Fire District voters rejected a permanent property tax mill levy hike 57
percent to 43 percent on Tuesday, setting the stage for probable staff cuts and
other budget reductions in 2014.

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“No matter what, we’ll (still) have to dip into our reserves,”
fire district board member Michael Kennedy told The Sopris Sun.

Property values have declined on average 40 percent since the
tax hike two years ago and the district expects a corresponding drop in revenues
for 2014-2015, according to a district fact sheet.

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“ … (But) we can’t cut 40 percent in one year, that’s for
sure,” Kennedy continued. “People expect a certain level of service. We’re
obligated to do that.”

There was no organized opposition to the ballot question, which
called for the levy to double to 12 mills, but in a letter to the editor,
Carbondale Board of Trustee member Allyn Harvey was first to urge residents to
consider voting against the hike. Harvey said he supported the temporary tax
hike two years ago on the grounds the district said it would draft a plan to
meet future economic needs without subsequent hikes.

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Kennedy countered by saying the district spent extra money in
the past two years to lower its ISO rating, which insurance companies use to
set premiums. “It (the new ISO) saved people money.”

Both Kennedy and fire board member Mark Chain said the ballot
question failure came because people are tired of higher taxes. Chain pointed
to the ballot, which included the Amendment 66 tax hike and a tax hike for the
proposed Crown Mountain Recreation Center and said, “It was a miserable ballot
this year.”

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