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.
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