Chamber board supports Glenwood fire tax proposal
Ryan Summerlin September 21, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Community on the Move, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s ad hoc political action committee, will kick into gear over the next six weeks to support the city and rural fire district’s mill levy proposal.
The chamber board, at its meeting Tuesday, voted unanimously to support the 2-mill property tax measures for both the city and the rural Glenwood Springs fire district, according to Chamber CEO Marianne Virgili.
“The board does take careful consideration before they take any political position,” Virgili said, adding the Community on the Move committee has not been active since getting behind a sales tax increase to fund city street improvements in 2006.
The committee will assist the separate Friends of the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire District organization in supporting the fire tax measure, she said.
“This is a pretty critical situation, especially in light of the recent fires and flooding in Colorado,” Virgili said of the chamber board’s rationale in supporting the proposed fire tax. “It just makes you more aware of how important our emergency responders are.”
The proposal is to increase the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire District’s mill levy by 2 mills, and to create a new city mill levy to supplement funding for the Glenwood Springs Fire Department. That will entail separate city and rural district questions on the Nov. 5 mail ballot.
The new city property tax would be in addition to the portion of the city sales tax that already goes to support Glenwood Springs fire and EMS services. The extra funding is needed to help make up an annual $250,000 shortfall in reimbursements for ambulance transports, according to city fire officials.
Approximately 65 percent of the fire department’s emergency calls are for ambulance service.
Meanwhile, the rural district proposal would increase the existing property tax rate by 2 mills, in an effort to make up for funding shortfalls brought on by the decrease in property valuations in recent years.
Both proposals call for a five-year sunset, when the taxes would go away unless presented to voters again for renewal.
Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson represented to City Council when the question was forwarded to the ballot that, if the measures do not pass, the fire department is looking to reduce the hours of operation at one of the three city fire stations and may have to make other service and personnel cuts.
Any service cuts that result in a slower response time in the event of a fire could also result in a lower insurance rating for the area, translating to higher insurance rates for homeowners, Tillotson advised.
The five-year sunset is intended to provide replacement funding while property values stabilize, “and, hopefully, start increasing,” according to the campaign, which is being headed by fire district board member Cindy Orr.
The tax increase would not go to fund equipment, such as fire engines or ambulances, which are funded through a separate equipment replacement tax in the city.