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Fire district slashes budget, cuts services for 2014

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Sopris Sun Staff Report

Faced with a projected $1 million decrease in property tax revenues for 2014, the Carbondale Fire District will dip into its reserves to the tune of $700,000 next year and also cut services or programs, such as the Wildfire Patrol that puts crews on the ground to locate and fight fires before they spread.

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The cuts come after the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District’s five-member board approved a 2014 budget of approximately $2 million on Dec. 11, down about $1.2 million from 2013 due to a decline in property values.

Those service cuts, in turn, were brought on after district residents voted down a mill-levy hike in November that would have funded services and programs at their current levels.

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Programs getting the axe include:

• Public classes in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation);

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• Certification and training programs for fire-fighters;

• The free Automated External Defibrillator maintenance and testing program for owners in businesses, schools and other locations;

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• Funding for the non-profits CORE (Community Office for Resource Efficiency) and CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region);

• Recycling programs at the districts stations, which are located Marble, Redstone, Carbondale, Missouri Heights and the CMC turnoff.

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The district wanted to buy a new fire truck and ambulance in 2014 but those plans are on hold.

District fire chief Ron Leach said the department will retain all 20 of its paid staffers, although one has quit and will not be replaced. The district also relies on 75 volunteers.

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Going into 2013, the district had about $1.5 million in reserves, so by the end of 2014 that figure is projected to be about $800,000.

Leach said the district will probably go back to district voters next year or in 2015 to ask for a property tax hike.

The property tax ballot question in November failed by about 55 to 45 percent.