Carbondale fire tax gets rejected by voters
CARBONDALE — A proposal to increase the tax rate for 15,000 residents of the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District was rejected by voters Tuesday night, by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, according to preliminary results from the Garfield County Clerk & Recorder’s office.
The final tally in Garfield and Pitkin counties, which contain most of the district’s population, was 1,740-1,270. Results for Gunnison County were not available at press time.
But fire board member Mike Kennedy, at around 9 p.m., conceded that the tax question had been defeated.
“It looks like, right now, there isn’t any way we can win this election,” he said.
Reasons for the defeat, he continued, probably include the simple truth that “voters are tired of taxes in general” on a statewide basis as well as a local one.
But, he said, “Probably one of the things we should have looked at a little bit more is a sunset provision” on any tax hike proposed to the voters.
The tax question on the ballot was to be in effect “in perpetuity” if passed, and Kennedy conceded that as the biggest problem that voters had with the proposal.
He said the fire board opted for that provision to avoid the uncertainty of having to return to the voters every few years with funding questions, and noted that the district must now come up with ways to deal with a projected 40 percent loss in property tax revenues in the coming year or two.
The real issue, he said, is funding for the district’s emergency medical personnel, who are more in demand now than in the past few years due to population growth and development in remote areas.
Fire calls, he said, have not been nearly as numerous as ambulance calls recently, and funding for the EMS crews was a significant part of the reasoning behind the tax hike.
He predicted that the department is likely to return with another tax hike request either next year or the year after, and in the meantime taxpayers can expect service cuts of some sort from the fire protection district.
He also invited local residents to attend a fire board meeting tonight, at 5:30 p.m. at the Carbondale fire house, to discuss the district’s needs.
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