Election Guide: West Routt Fire Protection District asks voters for tax increase
October 10, 2011
Shall West Routt Fire Protection District taxes be increased up to $575,000 in 2012 and by such other amount as may be raised annually in each year thereafter by the imposition of an additional mill levy of 3.5 mills for the acquisition, construction and improvement of district capital assets and for paying district operation and maintenance costs; and shall the proceeds of such taxes and investment income thereon and all other revenues of the district be collected and spent by the district as a voter-approved revenue change in 2011 and in each year thereafter, without regard to any spending, revenue-raising or other limitation contained within Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or Section 29-1-301, Colorado Revised Statutes and any other limitation contained in the laws of the state of Colorado?
To address staffing and equipment needs, the West Routt Fire Protection District is asking voters to increase property taxes for the district that encompasses 200 square miles including the town of Hayden, the Hayden Station power plant and Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
The district is asking voters for a 3.5-mill increase. The fire district's current tax rate is 2.772 mills. The proposed increase would more than double the district's revenues to about $1 million annually.
The owner of a home with an assessed value of $200,000 in the district typically pays about $44 a year for fire services. That compares with $158 paid in 2010 by those living within the Oak Creek Fire Protection District, which has the highest rate in the county.
With the proposed tax increase, residents in the West Routt Fire Protection District with a house worth $200,000 in assessed value would pay about $100 a year for fire-protection services.
The district has not asked for a mill levy increase in 31 years. Proponents of the increase say it would put funding at levels that are comparable with other fire departments in the area. The additional revenue would help pay for staffing, equipment and facility upgrades.
Hayden resident Frank Roitsch said he greatly appreciates the service offered by the district but is concerned whenever there is a proposal to raise taxes.
Roitsch said he would support paying more if he knew exactly how the money would be spent in the long term. He does not support the permanence of the tax and thinks it should have a sunset.
"If they only have a 10-year plan to tell us about, I'm not willing to pay it for the next 50 years," Roitsch said. "Let's take it 10 years at a time."
District officials said they are in the process of developing a 20-year plan.
If the measure passes, the first priority for the district would be to add on to the fire station so it could house a ladder truck. The district's next priority would be to purchase a $1 million ladder truck.
The district's rescue truck is more than 30 years old and needs to be replaced, Fire Chief Bryan Rickman said. At the same time, the district would upgrade its equipment and increase its staff, which consists of two full-time firefighters, five part-time staff members and more than a dozen volunteers who are paid $40 per call. Rickman said one of the reasons the district needs to increase staffing is because its volunteer numbers have dropped from 37 to 22 in recent years. Rickman envisions hiring three full-time firefighters, enabling the district to have someone at the station at all times.