Colorado River Fire Rescue looks toward possible mill levy proposal
Colorado River Fire Rescue will hold a final community meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at Station 41 before they go back to citizen task force to decide stable funding solutions
More than a dozen residents turned out last Saturday for Colorado River Fire Rescue’s third community meeting, this time at Station 61 in Silt.
CRFR Fire Chief Randy Callahan and his staff have spent time visiting each fire station as part of a series of meetings to inform the communities of decreasing revenues in recent years.
The district is considering placing a mill levy proposal on the May ballot, which would enable the funding of vital equipment, apparatus and attracting and retaining personnel.
“For many years we were able to depend on oil and gas revenues that allowed us to save a lot of money during good times, and live off reserves in bad times,” Callahan said.
The fire district’s overall assessed valuation dropped from $1.1 billion to $674 million from 2015 to 2018.
“We are not getting the oil and gas money that we are used to, and that has caused a $2.6 million budget deficit,” Callahan added.
As the valuation drops, the incident call volume is rising with the district responding to over 3,000 calls in 2018.
With a service area of 851 square miles, the district serves 25,275 residents and protects 15,339 homes, 850 multi-family dwellings and 1,665 commercial and industrial properties.
Given the decreased revenues, the district is looking for ways to fund the operational side to keep a balanced budget.
“Because we have done well in saving, the last three years we’ve been spending out of reserves,” Callahan said.
With changing times and less oil and gas money coming in, that plan is not working and the district is now unable to save money during the good times, he said.
“The problem that we are having is money. That is a universal problem for many agencies,” Callahan said.
CRFR currently has six open positions that it has not filled due to not being able to offer competitive wages and budget constraints.
“We’ve prepared a budget to live off reserves for one more year, which means we have a budget that is balanced and within our means for the next year,” Callahan said.
“If we are not able to secure stable funding for operations next year, we will be faced with cutting personnel.”
Leif Sackett, CRFR operations chief, said the district looked into wages in the area, including Parachute, Glenwood Springs, the Roaring Fork Valley and Grand Junction.
They found that CRFR is 18-20 percent below overall comparatively to the others districts and departments.
According to Sackett, CRFR would be looking for the addition of 6.099 mills for the funding proposal.
The addition to the existing mill levy would result in an estimated tax increase of $3.63 per month, per $100,000 of a home’s actual value.
Chief Callahan said that after one last meeting at Station 41 Thursday, all the information from meetings and the survey the district sent to the community will be presented to the task force during a Jan. 30 meeting.
“Our goal is to provide you with accurate information, so you can make a decision on where to go,” Callahan said at last Saturday’s meeting.
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