The Sopris Sun

Fire board convenes Aug. 4, tax talk expected

CAC recommendations released

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The Carbondale Fire Board meets in a special session on Aug. 4 to receive the final report from its Citizen Advisory Committee that among other items:

• Does not recommend asking voters for a property tax hike in November;

• Suggests the district consider continuing to dip into its reserve fund, dropping it from enough money to cover six months of expenses to three months;

• Says the board should look at adjusting wages and benefits paid to fire district staff members.

The Aug. 4 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District headquarters, located at the south end of town on Meadowood.

The five-member Carbondale Fire Board appointed a 17-member Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) earlier this year to make recommendations, after voters overwhelmingly shot down a mill levy ballot question in November that would have increased property taxes that pay for such services as fire fighting and ambulances in a 320-square-mile area that stretches from Marble to Missouri Heights.

The CAC has meet monthly since February and held its final meeting on July 21. Committee members in attendance were: Chuck Torinus, Connie Hendrix, Davis Farrar, Jason Sewell, John Haines, Ken Harrington, Lance Luckett, Mo Shalabi, Ray Sauvey, Richard Fuller, Tom Flynn, Joanne Teeple and Michael Hassig.

Others present included facilitators Hilary Fletcher and Tom Baker, district employees Jenny Cutright, Ron Leach and Rob Goodwin, and members of the public Mark Chain, Hank Van Berlo and Jeff Wadley.

At its July 21 meeting, the committee discussed four options. Options three and four were quickly eliminated, and included raising the district’s mill levy to fund “everything” according to the meeting’s minutes, and making cuts to balance the budget.

Late last year, the fire board approved a 2014 budget that took $700,000 from reserves and also cut $500,000 from the 2013 funding level. The decline in revenues is brought on by lower property values, which translate into lower property tax collections.

Most of the CAC’s focus during its most recent meeting was on Option 1 and Option 2, with the first option winning a straw vote 11-2.

Option 1 includes asking voters for a short term tax hike in one or two years, as a “bridge” until property values increase, and updating the district’s masterplan with “significant” community involvement.

The entire Community Advisory Committee report will be posted at Carbondalefire.org later this week.