Emergency services revenue stream to be on Nov. 3 ballot | PostIndependent.com
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Emergency services revenue stream to be on Nov. 3 ballot

Glenwood Springs Firefighter Dillon Robinson walks down the tower ladder during a training session at the fire department on Monday afternoon
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood will give residents the chance to establish a minimum level of funding for fire and emergency services.

At the Aug. 20 meeting, City Council adopted a resolution to add an issue to the Nov. 3 ballot that, if passed, would authorize the city “to increase or decrease its current 6.0 mill levy for operational and capital cost of providing fire protections, medical, rescue, and other emergency services beginning in tax year 2021,” according to the ballot issue language presented to council.

Council voted to adopt the resolution 6-1, with Councilor Tony Hershey opposed. The motion to adopt was introduced by Councilor Charlie Willman and seconded by Councilor Paula Stepp.

City attorney Karl Hanlon started the discussion with an overview of the effect the Gallagher Amendment has on property tax. 

Revenues from residential properties cannot exceed 45% of the total collected revenues, leaving the remaining 55% to come from non-residential property. 

The non-residential rate is fixed at 29% of assessed value, meaning that as residential property values rise, the residential assessment rate must drop to accommodate the 45/55 split required by Gallagher. It is currently about 7%, Hanlon said.

This becomes a problem locally because the ratio is calculated statewide. When home values increase more rapidly in the Front Range, the residential assessment rate drops statewide. When local property values increase less than the state average, less property tax revenues are collected locally, according to a Colorado Sun article.

The ballot issue would “de-Gallagherize” Glenwood’s 6 mill levy for fire and emergency services. Council had some questions about what that means and how important it is to the fire department.

Councilor Shelley Kaup asked what the ballot issue would actually do.

“Does this mean that the actual dollar revenue cannot go up with increased housing valuations or is it setting a minimum floor?” she asked.

“It guarantees that minimum revenue,” Hanlon said. Collections will not go below the amount they are currently, but they will rise if the residential assessment rate rises, he said. 

“If this doesn’t pass how much money do we stand to lose?” Mayor Jonathan Godes asked.

“About $200,000,” Glenwood Springs’ Chief Operating Officer Steve Boyd replied.

“If the citizens do vote for this, their taxes are not going to be going up at all, is that right?” Godes asked.

Hanlon agreed but clarified that increasing valuations would still result in increased payments from property owners.

“If their assessed valuation goes up they’re going to pay more because it’s worth more but not as a result of this action,” he said.

“A vote against this tonight is basically a vote to cut our firefighters to the tune of $200,000 and not have any tax relief,” Godes asked, with which Hanlon concurred.

“Are we able to easily cut $200,000 of fat in our fire department at this time?” Godes asked.

“The budget presented to you was conservative and assumed this money would not be in the budget,” answered city manager Debra Figueroa, adding that considering $200,000 is two positions, facing a cut like that would put a strain on the fire department.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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