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Ballot question not a sure thing

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It wasn’t an up or down vote, but fire district citizens advisory task force members on Monday indicated they are leaning away from recommending the fire board put a tax-hike proposal on the November ballot.

After the monthly meeting on June 16, task-force member Allyn Harvey told The Sopris Sun an informal poll at the meeting came up and then went down as follows.

The meeting agenda called for the 17-member task force to divide up into small groups and discuss three “building blocks for alternatives”: revenue/bridge table, expenditures/cost cutting table and telling the story.

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Basically, the first item deals with revenues and creating a financial “bridge” until property values increase, which would presumably produce more tax dollars; looking at ways to cut costs; and explaining to the public such things as essential services the district provides.

Harvey said groups of three to five task-force members huddled and addressed each of the three items, then the 11 members in attendance reconvened for more discussion.

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With the help of facilitator Tom Baker, the task force identified two different problems or issues to address: the district needs more money, and looking at larger policy issues that include spending and district management.

From there, two camps emerged, although Harvey said there was a lot of shared opinion:

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• The smaller of the camps thinks the task force’s job is to recommend to the fire board that it put a tax hike ballot question on the November ballot;

• The larger of the two camps thinks the district needs to “reform” how it manages money, and then possibly go to a ballot question but not this November.

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When the task force was asked whether the district should ask for a tax hike in November, three or four members put up their hands to say yes. The eight or so other members did not put up their hand, so Harvey said the question died at that point, and discussion continued on other issues.

“It (the number voting yes) was not even close to a majority,” Harvey said.

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He also pointed out the district has $2 million in reserves and can “weather” budgetary shortfalls for 2015 and perhaps beyond that.

— By Lynn Burton

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