CARBONDALE — Voters in the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District will be asked in the Nov. 5 election for a second increase in two years to the district’s property tax mill levy.
In 2011, voters in the sprawling, 320-square-mile fire district approved a mill levy override intended to generate an additional $775,000 per year.
The tax increase helped to make up for a significant decline in property valuations within the district, which stretches from Spring Valley on the north to Marble on the south, and east to west from the Garfield/Eagle county line to the Thompson Creek and Coal Basin areas,
That increase had a two-year sunset clause, meaning the district mill levy is set to revert from 8.0 mills back to 5.903 mills at the end of this year unless voters extend it.
Last week, the fire district’s board of directors voted unanimously to seek an extension of the previous mill levy override, and to ask for an additional $306,158 per year in order to avoid deep budget cuts in the district’s $2.8 million yearly budget.
Altogether, the new mill levy would generate about $1,081,158 to support fire and ambulance services in Carbondale and the surrounding rural area.
“The district is asking for an increase in tax revenue to make up for lost tax revenues of approximately 40 percent during the past five years, due to a decrease in property valuations in the district,” Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach explained in a press release announcing the tax proposal.
Leach could not be reached Friday for additional comment on the proposal. Two years ago, the fire district was looking at potentially cutting five of its 20 paid staff positions had the mill levy not passed. The primarily volunteer fire department also maintains a roster of more than 60 volunteers.
The previous measure passed with support from about 60 percent of the district’s voters, but district officials admitted at the time that they may need to return to voters in two years to extend the tax if property valuations didn’t improve.
Property valuations in Garfield County alone fell another 20 percent this year, based on the 2012 re-assessment cycle. The Carbondale fire district includes portions of Pitkin and Gunnison counties, as well as Garfield.
The neighboring Glenwood Springs Rural Fire District and city of Glenwood Springs Fire Department are also going to their voters for additional funding in the Nov. 5 election.
The Glenwood Springs proposal calls for a 2-mill increase to the rural district mill levy, and a brand new 2-mill city property tax to give additional support to fire and ambulance services.
The new in-city property tax would be in addition to the existing portion of the city sales tax that goes to fund the fire department.
As in the Carbondale district, Glenwood fire district officials cite a 39 percent decline in property values within their boundaries in asking for the new tax.