West Routt voters say ‘no’ to fire district tax
November 1, 2011
Steamboat Springs — West Routt Fire Protection District voters on Tuesday voted down a property tax increase that would have doubled funding for the fire district that covers much of western Routt County.
Sixty percent of residents within the 200-square-mile district cast ballots against the tax increase proposed by Referendum 5A.
"I'm disappointed, but we'll move forward and keep the best service available that we can," district board president Ross Fralick said Tuesday night.
The tax increase would have more than doubled the district's revenues to about $1 million annually.
The fire district had not asked voters for additional tax dollars in 31 years. District officials said the increase was necessary to address staffing and equipment needs and to make the district's funding comparable to other rural fire protection districts.
Opponents of the tax questioned the need to double the fire district's revenue without a corresponding increase in service calls or a long-term plan for how the money would be spent.
District officials said they were in the process of developing a 20-year plan for the money, and there were several major purchases planned in the near future. The first priority for the district would have been to add on to the fire station so it could house a ladder truck. The district's next priority would have been to purchase a $1 million ladder truck.
Without the ladder truck, district officials said the cost of insurance for residents in the district would likely increase because of an anticipated downgrading in their protection rating.
"When you dial 911, we're still going to show up, but me might not have the equipment to maintain the rating that we have," Fralick said.
Chief Bryan Rickman also envisioned hiring three more full-time firefighters, enabling the district to have someone at the station at all times.
Fralick said the district's board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, and they have already had discussions related to the tax measure not passing.
"We've got a budget to keep service as well as we can," he said. "I think we'll have to discuss it and keep seeing how we can improve service."