Local man says 21 will ax emergency services


— A sign attached to the back of a chair in which Chuck Vale sat during a debate Thursday spoke volumes about his group's position on Amendment 21.
The black sign with a red stop sign blared out to residents who attended the gathering on the Colorado Mountain College campus to vote "no" against the ballot issue, also known as Tax Cut 2000.
Vale, representing the Friends of the North Routt Fire Protection District, spoke out against the tax cut being spearheaded by Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce.
The amendment to the state's constitution is a $25 tax cut on each 2001 utility, vehicle, income and property tax.
According to the amendment, taxpayers would enjoy a $25 per year tax cut "until the tax and the services paid for the tax are eliminated or until the services are paid for in some other way."
The measure would cut taxes for 63 counties, 269 municipalities, 176 school districts and more than 1,500 special districts in the state.
Most of the local and state taxes this proposal would reduce are to provide funds for government services including fire and police protection, libraries, schools, highway and transportation projects and prisons.
The measure also would take money away from special district services that include emergency and hospital care and water and soil conservation.
Vale fears the tax cut could have a major impact on the fire protection agencies in Routt County.
Currently in the county, there are six fire districts and one municipal department that protects $492 million worth of property with a work force of 90 volunteers and eight paid personnel.
These fire protection departments responded to about 1,300 calls for service in 1999.
If the measure is approved, these fire agencies will lose a significant amount of revenue.
"The loss of all the tax revenue to the special districts will be a loss to Routt County," he said. "It would mean less firefighting and less emergency services."
Bruce foresees Amendment 21 will save families more than $530 each year, for life, starting in 2002.
Bruce does not believe that if the proposal is approved by voters, fire protection districts or any other taxing body will be harmed.
He believes the state will not let districts go without funding and use the state's revenue to cover the replacement of the tax cut. He expects the state revenue to grow to $800 million next year, to $14.7 billion.
However, Vale points out that there is no provision in the amendment that forces the state to fund the lost revenue.
Many of the local taxing entities, including the county, have approved resolutions voicing their disdain for the measure.


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