North Routt fire tax would fund chief, benefits

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Referendum 5A - ballot

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Shall North Routt Fire Protection District taxes be increased $101,832 annually (for tax year 2008) and by whatever additional amounts are raised annually thereafter by the imposition of an additional ad valorem property tax rate of 2.969 mills resulting in a total mill levy not to exceed 5.25 mills commencing on January 1, 2008, for tax year 2008 and continuing thereafter, to provide fire, rescue and emergency medical services including general operations and capital improvements; and shall the district be authorized to collect, retain and spend all tax revenue collected from such total property tax rate commencing January 1, 2009, and continue thereafter as a voter approved revenue change, offset and exception to the limits which would otherwise apply under TABOR (Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado constitution) or any other law?

— Dave Moss likes to think of the North Routt Fire Protection District as a three-legged stool with a loose leg.

Those three legs consist of the district's facilities, equipment and personnel, he said.

"We're in good shape with our facilities because of the bond issue that passed in 2001, and we're looking good with our equipment since we got grants for new trucks, but we need funds to pay our personnel," he said.

Moss, president of the North Routt Fire Protection District's Board of Directors, said district officials decided to put a 2.9 mill levy issue before North Routt property owners and other eligible voters to help generate funds to pay their full-time chief, Bob Reilley, and enhance benefits for the district's core of about 15 volunteers.

If approved, the mill levy would generate about $101,000 for the district. About 60 percent would go to Reilley's salary and benefits, with the remaining money going to volunteer benefits, Moss said.

Reilley, who makes less than $65,000 a year, is currently paid out of the district's reserve funds. Reilley is the district's only paid employee besides a part-time administrative assistant and mechanic who are paid contractually.

Fred Wolf, the district's treasurer, said the proposed mill levy increase would cost the average North Routt homeowner about $1.85 per $100,000 of assessed value. Most homes in North Routt are valued at about $300,000, meaning the tax would cost the average resident about $5.45 a month, he said.

"It's a little more than a gallon of milk a month to ensure that when you call 911 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, someone shows up," he said.

Reilley said an increased call volume coupled with the fact that many of the district's volunteers work in Steamboat Springs makes it difficult to have people available to respond to a calls during the day.

"Call volume is only going up," he said. "This has been our busiest year to date with about 90 calls. That's more than (2006), when we had the Rainbow (Family of Living Light) Gathering and more than 2005, when we had the Hinman fire."

In addition to paying Reilley, the funds generated from the mill levy would help the district enhance benefits for volunteers.

"We need to attract volunteers as well as keep the very professional and qualified group of volunteers we have right now," Reilley said. "(The tax) is going to benefit everyone."

North Routt property owners or renters living within the district's boundaries are eligible to vote. North Routt property owners who live outside the district but are registered voters in Colorado also are eligible to vote, Moss said.

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