Glenwood, Carbondale fire district ballot issues heading toward passage

Three local fire district issues were heading toward passage in unofficial results as of 9:29 p.m. Tuesday, though with the apparent repeal of the Gallagher Amendment statewide they become moot.

Glenwood Springs 2A is for emergency medical services within city limits, while 6A is for the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire Protection District, outside of city limits. Issue 7B is for the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District.

Carbondale fire chief Rob Goodwin was happy with the apparent passage of 7B, which was passing 4,500-1,556, showing that residents would have supported the fire district even under Gallagher restrictions.

“We’re very happy with that. It looks like it’s going to pass by a great margin. We’re grateful for the support from people in our district. We’ll be able to have a stable funding source,” he said.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes acknowledged that the issues will not be necessary with the repeal of Gallagher but was pleased that voters supported fire and emergency services.

“I’m grateful to the voters, and I’m grateful to [Glenwood fire chief] Gary [Tillotson],” he said.

The three issues were about de-Gallagherizing and had similar ballot language. All were designed to give residents the chance to establish a minimum level of funding for fire and emergency services.

When Glenwood’s City Council voted to put its EMS issue on the ballot, city attorney Karl Hanlon gave 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 nonresidential 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 issues would de-Gallagherize the communities’ mill levies for fire and emergency services, meaning the revenue stream can be maintained at current levels despite falling tax revenues otherwise caused by the Gallagher Amendment. 

“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. 

The Gallagher Amendment itself is on the ballot. If Amendment B passes and repeals Gallagher, it would for the most part make these local issues unnecessary. Early results show the Gallagher Amendment heading for repeal 57.6% to 42.4%.

“If the Gallagher Amendment is repealed it still leaves open the possibility that the Legislature could lower the residential assessment rate resulting in lowered revenues that 2A and 6A are designed to stabilize.  More than likely that won’t occur, which effectively renders them moot,” Hanlon said Tuesday in an email.

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