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Local voters give warm reception to tax measures

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If preliminary election results are any guide, folks in the Roaring Fork Valley are willing to pay a bit more for sustainable services.

Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District appears to have successfully increased its mill levy in perpetuity and been granted a new bond, both by a factor of more than two to one. It’s a stark contrast to the last time the district went for a tax increase with no sunset clause.

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“We got thumped a few years ago, but we put together the master plan and we’ve been following it,” said Board President Gene Schilling. “We have the most outstanding firefighters on the western slope and I’m glad the taxpayers think our job’s important.”

According to Schilling, the bond will allow the district to upgrade equipment, replace aging engines and ambulances and construct a new training facility. The mill levy represents an opportunity to hire more staff to handle multiple simultaneous calls. The district is also planning put some money away for future capital expenses and potential financial downturns.

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“We’re hoping that we aren’t going to need to go back to the voters and ask for anything for a while,” Schilling said.

Asked whether the Lake Christine Fire may have increased community support, Schilling said it probably had, but it was also relevant.

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“If things keep going the way they are with dryer years, we could have a Lake Christine in our district,” he noted.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was less assured of success in its own property tax question, with a margin of less than 600 votes.

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“RFTA has been planning for about four years for this election,” noted RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship. “In order for us to become a more sustainable organization we were going to either have to increase our resources or reduce our services.”

The organization looked at what it could accomplish with the maximum 5 mill levy, winnowed it down to a wish list at 3.65, then cut it again when polling found support was “marginal at best.”

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“We either shrunk projects or assumed a higher grant share so we could still make RFTA substantially sustainable for the long term,” Blankenship explained.

The final 2.65 mill item at least had a stronger showing than either of the statewide propositions aimed at transportation, which may also have benefited RFTA. Regardless, Blankenship was thankful for the support for the cause and the organization.

“There were a lot of worthwhile things on the ballot, so for them to check the yes box on 7A was something we greatly appreciate,” he said.

Colorado Mountain College’s bid to maintain funding despite TABOR and Gallagher Amendment reductions also appears to have succeeded more than two to one.

“We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations that advocated on behalf of Colorado Mountain College — most especially its students — in supporting 7D,” Assistant Public Information Officer Carrie Click wrote in a statement. “We are honored that voters in our communities took the time to learn about how a quirk in the state constitution put local services in rural areas at risk and have entrusted the college with the ability to maintain revenues that otherwise would have been lost. We humbly accept this responsibility and are committed to providing the essential education and training that our students, employers and communities need to meet the demands of our regional economy.”

Garfield County Libraries, too, will likely have use of funds it previously would have to have returned to voters. According to Carbondale Librarian Lacy Dunlavy, folks should be able to see the difference.

“When the prospect of more funding came to our staff, it was a unanimous decision to put this right back into the community’s hands by purchasing more library materials — books, audiobooks, magazines, reference, covering all ages and genres,” she said. “It will be impossible to not notice how many more materials we have to offer in all areas of the library.”

We will continue to update this story as more official results roll in.

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