Glenwood Springs Council refers fire tax question to voters

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — City Council, at its Aug. 1 meeting, voted 7-0 to refer to city voters in the Nov. 5 election a proposed five-year, 2 mill property levy to support city fire and emergency medical services.

The new tax would help make up an annual $250,000 shortfall in reimbursements for ambulance transports, according to city officials. The property tax would be in addition to the portion of the city’s general fund sales tax that also is dedicated to fire department operations.

The Glenwood Springs Rural Fire District is also expected to forward a companion question to voters in the rural areas, asking to also increase the district’s tax rate by 2 mills. It would be intended to make up a funding shortfall brought on by a 39 percent decrease in property valuations in recent years.

Both taxes would expire after five years, unless extended by voters.

Glenwood Springs resident John Haines, who was attending the council meeting, questioned the need to ask for a new city property tax.

“The fire department is right up there with baseball and hot dogs … but I look at this and I have to ask, where does it ever stop?” Haines said. “There comes a point where we can’t keep paying more taxes.”

Councilman Todd Leahy said the council is only asking voters to decide the issue, but agreed with the other council members that it’s a reasonable request.

“This is a tax to maintain the current level of services, and is not for new equipment or anything else,” Councilman Gamba said, adding the sunset clause makes it easier to swallow.

“If we don’t do this, we are looking at a periodic closure of one of our three stations to cut costs,” Gamba said.

City fire officials advised that such a cut in fire protection services could result in an increase in homeowner insurance rates equal to or more than the tax increase.

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