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Two Garfield County residents vying for Democratic CD3 nomination ready to steer through crowded field of candidates

A pair of Glenwood Springs Democrats vying to be the party’s nominee come next June to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat believe the job is anything but assured to remain in Republican hands.

Regardless of whether the controversial current U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt wins the Republican nomination to run for reelection, Democratic challengers Colin Wilhelm and Cole Buerger are ready to make their case in a crowded field of fellow Democrats from western and southern Colorado who are doing the same.

The two local candidates recently shared their thoughts, now that the 3rd Congressional District boundaries are set following redistricting.

Among the biggest changes in the complexion of the race that came out of that was the departure of state Rep. Kerry Donovan of Vail, largely considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in CD3, after Eagle County was not included in the district.

That leaves the primary race wide open, with nine Democrats now seeking the nomination, including the new fundraising leaders following Donovan’s departure, Sol Sandoval of Pueblo and state Rep. Donald Valdez from the San Luis Valley.

Colin Wilhelm

“Really, CD3 over the years has been more of a moderate district, and not moderate Democrat, but more the middle of the road person and independent thinkers,” said Wilhelm, who is trying his hand at a run for the congressional seat after two unsuccessful attempts to run for the Colorado House District 57 seat.

“For the Democrats, CD3 is not going to be won by a Democratic extremist, right?,” he said. “We’re not going to go from one extreme of Lauren over to the other side.

“The reason I’m running is to protect our democracy and have a civil person representing us in Congress, and I think Lauren Boebert is an embarrassment and a danger to our country and the Constitution,” Wilhelm said.

Buerger, like Wilhelm, believes that extreme shift with Boebert was a one-off outcome in 2020 when she ousted former Rep. Scott Tipton in the GOP primary and defeated Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in the general election.

Cole Buerger

“I do think the race is winnable if Democrats nominate the right candidate,” said Buerger, a first-time candidate for elected office but with political campaign experience.

“Lauren Boebert won by just 6 points last year, and ever since taking office, has proven she is not able to get results for our district,” Buerger said.

“Her most recent remarks are a great example of this,” he said of Boebert’s “jihad squad” references and other derogatory comments about Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, which sparked criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

“Beyond drawing widespread and deserved condemnation, they come with serious consequences,” Buerger said, referring to potential lost committee seats and even economic consequences if businesses steer away from the region as a result.

Boebert faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from Marina Zimmerman of Bayfield, who also has seized on the recent controversies involving Boebert.

So far, though, Boebert is the clear money leader in the race, having brought in more than $2.7 million already, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Zimmerman has not reported any political fundraising as yet.

On the Democratic side, following Donovan’s departure, Sandoval is the frontrunner, having brought in more than $327,000 as of the latest FEC reports, followed by Valdez with $230,521 and Wilhelm with $145,745. Buerger, a latecomer to the race declaring his candidacy in August, sits sixth with a little over $54,000.

On the issues

Wilhelm made a strong case in his 2020 run for the Colorado House on the need for more resources on the mental health and addiction fronts, drawing on his own battles with alcohol addiction and recovery.

There’s much to be done on the national front on those issues, as well, Wilhelm said. But he’s also focused on other issues important to western and southern Colorado, such as water, jobs and immigration.

“We need to focus on the electability issue, and how we can get things done,” he said. “I have a lot of knowledge and experience on those issues, and have been working to help figure out ways to diversify our economy. That’s really where we need to keep our focus.”

When it comes to water, the 3rd District representative needs to be a leader, especially given the ongoing drought concerns and the prospect of a Colorado River Compact call by downstate users.

“It’s time for us to not just rubber stamp its renewal but to review and revise it (based on the current conditions),” Wilhelm said.

Buerger said what sets him apart from the other candidates is his direct experience with many of those very policy challenges that Wilhelm mentioned.

“Growing up on a ranch just south of Silt, I know the needs of hard-working families and the challenges small businesses face in an increasingly corporate-dominated world,” Buerger said, adding he has witnessed firsthand people facing foreclosure or losing their job.

“I have experience on Capitol Hill, so I know what it will take to get stuff done,” he said. “From that, I have developed a district-focused platform rather than one that reflects the needs of D.C. or Denver.”

That platform, he said, addresses four key challenges: “rebuilding our communities, strengthening our economy, preserving our natural heritage and defending our democracy.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Boebert in call to Omar refuses to apologize for anti-Muslim remarks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after firebrand conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was harshly criticized for making anti-Muslim comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat whom she likened to a bomb-carrying terrorist, the two spoke by phone.

By both lawmakers’ accounts, it did not go well.

Monday’s conversation, which Boebert sought after issuing a tepid statement last Friday, offered an opportunity to extend an olive branch in a House riven by tension. Instead, it ended abruptly after Boebert rejected Omar’s request for a public apology, amplifying partisan strife that has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP since a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Boebert previously apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended,” but not directly to Omar.

It’s just the latest example of a GOP lawmaker making a personal attack against another member of Congress, an unsettling trend that has gone largely unchecked by House Republican leaders. It also offers a test of Democrats’ newfound resolve to mete out punishment to Republicans.

Earlier this month, conservative Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured over a violent video. In February, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was booted from congressional committees for her inflammatory rhetoric.

After Monday’s phone call, Omar and Boebert quickly issued statements condemning each other.

“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” Omar said in a statement. She said she “decided to end the unproductive call.”

Boebert shot back in an Instagram video: “Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party.”

The chain of events was set in motion over a week ago when a video posted to Facebook showed Boebert speaking before constituents, describing an interaction with Omar — an interaction that Omar maintains never happened.

In the video, the freshman Colorado lawmaker claims that a Capitol Police officer approached her with “fret on his face” shortly before she stepped aboard a House elevator and the doors closed.

“I look to my left, and there she is — Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’” Boebert says with a laugh.

Omar is Muslim. Boebert’s comment about Omar not wearing a backpack was an apparent reference to her not carrying a suicide bomb.

Reaction to the video was swift. Omar called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “take appropriate action” because “normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

House Democratic leadership also issued a joint statement condemning “Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions,” while calling on McCarthy “to finally take real action to confront racism.”

Yet McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker if Republicans retake the majority next year, has proven reluctant to police members of his caucus whose views are often closely aligned with the party’s base.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker had nothing new to add Monday and pointed to the statement issued by Democratic leaders last week calling on McCarthy to act.

Boebert tweeted Friday that “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar,” adding that “there are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

It’s not Boebert’s first brush with controversy — nor Omar’s. Since Boebert’s election to Congress in 2020, she has leaned in to provocative broadsides that delight the party’s base. Omar has drawn her focus in particular. She has previously called Omar and others “full time propagandists” for “state sponsored terrorism,” and “politicians with suicide belts strapped their body.”

In May, she tweeted that Omar was “a full-time propagandist for Hamas.” She has also called Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib “evil” while also referring to them as the “jihad squad.” Tlaib, like Omar, is Muslim.

Omar too has drawn scrutiny for her comments, often in reference to Israel, some of which have been blasted as anti-Semitic.

In 2019, she suggested that Israel’s supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance to a foreign country.” She was also pressured to apologize “unequivocally” for suggesting that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” a longstanding trope about Jews buying influence.

House Democratic leadership directly rebuked Omar over the remarks.

Rep. Omar seeks action over Boebert’s remarks on Muslims

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks at a news conference held by members of the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2021, to complain about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and masking policies. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

DENVER (AP) — Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota called Friday for House leaders to take “appropriate action” against Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert for using anti-Muslim language in describing a recent encounter she had with Omar at the U.S. Capitol.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders demanded Boebert retract her comments.

According to a video clip posted by a Twitter account called PatriotTakes, Boebert made the remarks this holiday break. In it, she says she and a staffer were taking a Capitol elevator when she saw an alarmed Capitol police officer running toward them. She said she turned to her left and spotted Omar standing beside them.

”“Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,” Boebert recalled saying, drawing laughs from her audience. “And I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.’”

Omar publicly urged Pelosi and GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to discipline Boebert.

“Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter,” Omar tweeted. “@GOPLeader and @SpeakerPelosi need to take appropriate action, normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

Boebert has become a partisan lightning rod during her first term in Congress, insisting on her right to bring a gun onto the floor of the House, voting to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory and maintaining a fiery presence on social media in which she insists Biden and Democrats are leading the country to socialism.

Pelosi and other top House Democrats called on Boebert in a statement later Friday to “fully retract these comments and refrain from making similar ones going forward.” They also demanded Republican leaders “to address this priority with the Congresswoman and to finally take real action to confront racism.”

Omar said Thursday that Boebert had fabricated the story.

FILE - In this April 20, 2021, file photo Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks in Brooklyn Center, Minn., during a news conference at the site of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer during a traffic stop. Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert apologized Friday, Nov. 26, for using anti-Muslim language in describing a recent encounter she had with Omar. In her apology, Boebert didn't address Omar's criticism that Boebert made up her story about the encounter at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

“Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up,” Omar tweeted. “Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout.”

Boebert tweeted earlier Friday that “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

The offices of McCarthy didn’t immediately respond to email and telephone requests for comment late Friday. Telephone calls and emails seeking comment from Boebert and Omar also weren’t immediately returned.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Boebert’s remarks in a statement urging McCarthy and other Republican leaders to repudiate Boebert’s remarks.

It said Boebert’s allusion to a backpack is an “Islamophobic smear that all Muslims are terrorists,” as well as her use of the term “jihad squad.”

Omar and Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib sometimes refer to themselves as “the squad.”

Vail’s Kerry Donovan suspends campaign against Lauren Boebert

Kerry Donovan, who has a residence in Vail and a family ranch near Edwards, faced a steep challenge to unseat Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s sprawling, red-leaning 3rd Congressional District.
Dave Zalubowski/AP

Kerry Donovan, the leading Democratic challenger for Lauren Boebert’s seat in Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District, announced Friday morning that she is suspending her campaign as a result of Colorado’s new congressional map.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to earn the support of Coloradans and Americans from all walks of life, and I cannot express my gratitude for each and every person who stepped up to help our campaign. With over 60,000 contributions and an average donation of less than $25, we built a grassroots movement that crossed the continental divide, party lines and ideological differences,” Donovan said in a statement. “We built one of the most powerful campaigns in the country, bringing together tens of thousands of people dedicated to standing up for our democracy and bridging divides to solve the problems our nation faces.”

Donovan, who has a residence in Vail and a family ranch near Edwards, already faced a steep challenge to unseat Boebert in the far-flung, red-leaning district. The state’s redistricting of Colorado’s eight congressional districts only pushed Boebert’s advantage by pushing Donovan into the 2nd Congressional District. Donovan had already suspended fundraising for her campaign last month after the state’s independent congressional redistricting commission approved the new map before submitting it to the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval.

The new map puts most of the Eagle River Valley in the 2nd Congressional District — leaving Dotsero and a few other random slivers isolated in the 3rd Congressional District with El Jebel and Basalt in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Previously, the Eagle River Valley was more evenly split between the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts with the boundary falling in the Avon/EagleVail area. Congressional representatives don’t have to live in the district they represent, according to federal law, just the state their district is in.

Donovan’s departure leaves a host of other Democrats who will be vying for the party’s nomination to run for the 3rd District seat next year, including Glenwood Springs attorney Colin Wilhelm.

“This campaign was about standing up to hateful and divisive leadership and making sure that the West, which has big problems to solve, was represented by someone who would fight for us, not a headline,” Donovan said. “While each $15 check in the mail with a memo ‘We believe in you’ or $20 donation at a meet and greet made me more committed by the day, the congressional maps failed to recognize the complexity of rural Colorado and instead divided communities, protected incumbents, and ignored Coloradans’ voices. As a result, there is no viable path forward for me to remain in this race, and I have made the decision to suspend my campaign for Congress.”

There was no reaction from Boebert on either of her Twitter accounts to the news of Donovan all but exiting the race. The congresswoman based out of Garfield County was generating headlines, however, for a post she shared on Twitter on Thursday night showing her wearing a red dress with the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon” while posing next to former President Donald Trump.

The phrase has become a rallying cry for Republicans in recent weeks as a snub to Joe Biden and his administration.

“It’s not a phrase, it’s a movement,” Boebert wrote in the tweet.

Whelan, McGruder, Abbey elected to Garfield District 16 school board

Garfield County School District No. 16 candidates Kim Whelan, left, and Christine Abbey participate in a public forum at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District Station No. 1 on Oct. 6.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

One incumbent and two newcomers were elected in balloting that concluded Tuesday in the race to fill three Garfield District 16 Board of Education seats in Parachute.

Unofficial final election results from Garfield County released late Wedneday afternoon gave incumbent appointed board member Kim Whelan the most votes among the six candidates for three open seats on the board with 652.

Second in the running was Staci McGruder with 633 votes, with Christina Abbey holding on for the third seat with 531 votes.

Vincent Tomasulo, who was seeking election to a second term, was just outside the mix with 457 votes. He was followed by Donald Christopher Jackson with 432 votes and Keith Gronewoller with 407.

“Hopefully, people see that I’ve been a positive representative of educators in our district, and I’d like to continue to do the best job I can to provide a good learning environment for students and a good teaching environment for our teachers,” Whelan said as the results were being reported Tuesday night.

One big decision coming up for the District 16 board in the coming months will be hiring a new superintendent, following the decision last week by Superintendent Brad Ray to step down after the current school year.

Whelan declined to speculate on that process, but acknowledged the challenging times for public schools both politically and in terms of hiring and retaining teachers and staff.

“Integrity is the No. 1 responsibility we all have, and making sure the decisions we make are in the best interests of the kids, parents, families and employees of the district,” she said.

McGruder and Abbey were not immediately available for comment. Those elected to the Garfield 16 board Tuesday are to serve four-year terms.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@citizentelegram.com.

Colorado River Fire Rescue mill levy approved

Voters in the Colorado River Fire Rescue District gave the property tax Ballot Issue 6A the nod by a more than 2-to-1 margin in Tuesday’s election.

Unofficial final results released at 5 p.m. Wednesday by Garfield County Elections officials and posted to the county website had the proposed phased mill levy ahead with more than 68% of voters approving, 3,968 votes in favor to 1,836 against.

Voters within the district stretching from New Castle to Rifle were asked whether to support a mill levy increase aimed at restoring service losses due to budget cuts in recent years.

“We’re very, very happy seeing those numbers and appreciate the support from the community we serve,” CRFR Chief Leif Sackett said. “Over the last month, we’ve been doing a lot of informational push, and had great support when we were out talking to people. That’s encouraging to hear and see.”

Issue 6A sought phased property tax increase over the next five years through 2026 to enhance fire protection, ambulance, emergency medical response, rescue, safety and other district support services.

The measure promised to address recruitment and retention of firefighters and paramedics, improve training, replacement and maintenance of equipment and emergency response time.

A combination of a declining oil and gas industry and a resulting decrease in property valuations in 2016 led the fire district to reduce its budget by about 35%, or $2.4 million, since that time.

CRFR has relied heavily on reserves to temporarily shore up its budget but has sold equipment this year in order to make ends meet, Sackett explained ahead of Tuesday’s election.

The district serves more than 25,000 residents over a 851-square-mile area.

A previous mill levy increase attempt was rejected by district voters in 2020.

“I think it made a difference that we were out talking to people, being out with the kids for trick-or-treat streets and letting people ask questions,” Sackett said. “That makes a big difference in all these towns.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Roaring Fork School District mill levy override on track to pass


Roaring Fork School District voters took a step toward addressing its labor shortage on Election Day, passing a tax mill levy override question that will source up to $7.7 million annually for the purpose of increasing salaries across the district.

In early returns, ballot question 5B drew more than 65% yes votes. As of 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, the question had 7,854 yes votes and 3,542 no votes across Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.

It asked voters to increase property taxes to source funds for increasing salaries as the rising cost of living has priced out prospective hires and current workers from the Roaring Fork Valley. The district started the school year with more than 60 open positions across its 13 schools and additional offices.

“We’re very hopeful, and we’re very excited that the community members of Roaring Fork School District are so supportive of our teachers and staff,” Glenwood Springs Middle School Teacher and Yes on 5B campaign co-chair Autumn Rivera said.

The Yes on 5B campaign — organized by district employees and community members — said the additional funding would allow the district to increase the salaries of staff districtwide by an average of 10-12%. These increases do not apply to district administration, but do apply to support staff, operations and other positions.

The school district offers the 23rd highest wages in the state of Colorado, but the cost of living within its boundaries is third-highest. At a per-pupil level, Roaring Fork is in the bottom third in funding in the state.

Rivera, the 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year, said that she and 75% of teachers at the school district have had to take second jobs to afford to stay in the Roaring Fork Valley. As many as three out of four prospective hires rescind their job acceptance when they learn how expensive living in the area is.

The hope is that raising wages will help alleviate financial stress on the district’s workers and help them not only bring in new talent but retain it.

“It’s going to help our teachers and staff in ways that I think people can’t even fully understand at this point,” Rivera said. “It’s going to mean that we’re going to be able to keep our strong teachers in our classrooms. We’re going to be able to keep our dedicated staff in our schools and other buildings.”

After a Colorado-mandated 13% of the accrued funds goes to the district’s charter schools, 75% of the remaining pool will go to salary increases and 25% will go to recruitment and retention measures.

The passed measure means property owners can expect tax increases. Commercial property owners will pay $14.21 per $100,000 of assessed value per month. Homeowners will pay $3.62 per $100,000 of assessed value per month.

The mill levy override goes into effect on Jan. 1, and the actual allotment won’t be known until the end of December when enrollment numbers are finalized for budgeting purposes. Superintendent Rob Stein said that the first priority is to restore lost progress after wage freezes during the pandemic, followed by raising salaries to be competitive in the top third of their comparison groups.

Teitler, Kuhlenberg on track to secure Roaring Fork School District Board of Education seats

Roaring Fork School District Board of Education candidates Kenny Teitler (Left, District A) and Kathryn Kuhlenberg (Right, District E) at the Issues and Answers forum at Morgridge Commons in Glenwood Springs on Oct. 11.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

Voters for the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education have made their choice clear — education experience over an outside perspective.

Educators Kenny Teitler and Kathryn Kuhlenberg are well on their way to winning the two open seats for District A and District E, respectively. They faced opponents with business backgrounds but little to no education experience. Teitler faced Chase McWhorter and Kuhlenberg faced Steven Fotion. Teitler drew around 75% of the votes in his race and Kuhlenberg drew nearly 80% in early returns.

As of 5:40 p.m. Wednesday night, Teitler had 7,030 votes across Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle Counties to McWhorter’s 2,390. Kuhlenberg had 6,760 to Fotion’s 1,776. Christopher Becker, listed on the ballot for District E but withdrew from the race less than a week into the campaign, received 381 votes in Garfield County according to Tuesday night reporting.

“I feel confident that I can serve the board of our district well and that I’ll be able to represent the constituents that voted for me and hopefully do them proud,” Kuhlenberg said. “I’m ready to really get in there and get to work.”

Kuhlenberg owns and operates a private preschool in Aspen and has a self-designed degree in education policy and psychology with a focus on children. She also has a law degree.

Teitler brings more than 25 years of teaching experience in Basalt and Carbondale before retiring two years ago. He’s served on accountability committees for the district. A large part of Teitler’s campaign focused on his experience with second-language learners and addressing the needs of the Latino population within the district.

McWhorter is a managing director with Institutional Real Estate, Inc., an international media outlet focusing on real estate issues. He focused his campaign on providing an outsider’s perspective on the district’s pressing issues and bringing an approach centering on oversight with a more hands-off approach on operations.

Fotion owns a gym in Carbondale and is a general contractor. He campaigned on the foundation of being an experienced business owner also with a “fresh set of eyes” approach.

Teitler will replace current District A director Jen Rupert and Kuhlenberg replaces current District E director Jennifer Scherer. Both incumbents opted not to seek reelection.

District A is virtually bordered by Colorado Highways 133 to the west and 82 to the north, including Bridges High, Crystal River Elementary, Carbondale Middle and Roaring Fork High schools.

District E is bordered on the south by 82, encompassing the Fryingpan Valley. It contains Basalt Elementary and Basalt Middle schools.

Teitler and Kuhlenberg will serve four year terms.

“I want to thank the community for their support and all the people who helped me,” Teitler said. “I’m excited to be able to still be in the education system, because that’s been my life and I miss it.”

Find your 2021 Garfield County election results here

Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, meaning results should start coming in shortly. We’ll be posting stories individually on all our local races, but you can keep coming back here to easily access all of them below. If a certain race isn’t linked yet, just know that we’re working on the initial version.

In the meantime, you can see real-time results on the Garfield County website.

City council races

  • Rifle City Council results

School board races

Local ballot measures

 

Colorado River Fire Rescue Ballot Issue 6A primer

Voters in the Colorado River Fire Rescue district (Rifle, Silt and New Castle) are deciding whether to support a mill levy increase in next Tuesday’s election aimed at restoring service losses that have impacted the district in recent years.

Ballot Issue 6A asks for a phased property tax increase over the next five years through 2026 to enhance fire protection, ambulance, emergency medical response, rescue, safety and other district support services.

Specifically, the proposed tax increase, according to the ballot language, is meant to address:

• Lost revenue and budget constraints on the district’s revenues caused by economic downturn

• Recruitment and retention of firefighters and paramedics to maintain emergency response times and emergency services and bring their salaries in line with nearby communities

• Training and life-saving medical, fire and other emergency response techniques to promote firefighter and citizen safety

• Ongoing maintenance and scheduled replacement of fire, medical and rescue equipment, fire trucks and ambulances to maintain reliability and protect first responders and citizens

• Financial transparency and accountability by making the most current district budget and audit available to every taxpayer on the district’s website

A combination of a declining oil and gas industry and a resulting decrease in property valuations in 2016 led CRFR to reduce its budget by about 35%, or $2.4 million.

CRFR has relied heavily on reserves to temporarily shore up its budget but has sold equipment this year in order to make ends meet.

CRFR Chief Leif Sackett said in a September interview that the district serving more than 25,000 residents over a 851-square-mile radius has already sold wildland engines, a ladder truck and a hazmat rig in an effort to shore up the budget.

“It’s tough to do when we used to have the staffing and personnel to keep those apparatus in service,” Sackett said. “It’s a hard thing to do to make those cutbacks, but we’re doing everything we possibly can to help bring in revenue any way possible.”

The measure proposes a phased-in mill levy starting at 3 mills in 2022, 2 mills in 2024 and 1.75 mills in 2026.

If approved by voters, the CRFR mill levy increase would add $1.79 per month per $100,000 of a home’s actual value, according to the Yes on 6A website.

CRFR had a tax-funded budget of $6.61 million in 2016, which decreased to $4.11 million 2017 and has stayed at that level since.

If the mill levy measure is approved by voters, it would bring CRFR’s tax-funded revenues to approximately $7.4 million — what it was in 2016, with an additional 12% to account for 2% inflation per year, according to the tax proposal.

The fire district previously asked voters in May 2020 to pass a major mill levy. That request failed by 250 votes. The defeat prevented the district from filling six vacant positions, and Station No. 43 in south Rifle was closed.

According to supporters, the proposed tax could increase CRFR’s average response time by 10 minutes.