Glenwood Springs fire officials set to refer tax question |

Glenwood Springs fire officials set to refer tax question

An engine and ambulance sit in front of Glenwood Springs Fire Station Three on Four Mile Rd. Fire districts across the state stand to benefit in a bipartisan proposal to ask voters this year to repeal Colorado's Gallagher Amendment.
Post Independent file photo

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City voters, along with those living in the rural Glenwood Springs fire district, will most likely see a property tax question on the November ballot aimed at supporting fire and ambulance services.

City Council, at its regular meeting tonight, will consider an ordinance formally referring a proposed new five-year levy of 2 mills on property within the city. The question is to be decided in the Nov. 5 election.

Likewise, the board of directors of the Glenwood Springs Rural Fire District is expected to decide later this month whether to forward a companion tax question to voters living in the rural areas outside Glenwood Springs, said Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson.

It, too, would ask for a 2 mill increase to the existing rural district levy of 6.339 mills that goes to support fire and ambulance services outside the city. It would also have a five-year “sunset” clause, meaning the additional tax levy would end after that unless voters extend it.

“We did decide to keep the questions in both the city and the district similar, so it’s easier for voters to understand and for us to get a common message out there,” Tillotson said.

The city provides fire and ambulance services in the rural areas through an inter-governmental agreement. The rural district takes in the Four Mile and Three Mile areas, the Highway 82 corridor south of Glenwood Springs to the Garfield County Road 154 intersection, the north end of Spring Valley, plus the No Name and Canyon Creek areas along Interstate 70.

However, a 39 percent drop in property values over the past three years has resulted in an ongoing shortfall between the district’s share of its budget expenses and a city tax subsidy for rural services, Tillotson explained.

“The city has agreed to cover that shortfall, but it is not a sustainable figure moving forward,” he said.

In 2012, the shortfall was about $75,000, and with the recent 20 percent decline in residential and commercial property values in Garfield County, that trend will continue without either a mill levy increase or cutting fire services, Tillotson said.

As for the proposed new city property tax, the 2 mill levy would be in addition to a portion of the city’s sales tax that now funds the Glenwood Springs Fire Department for fire and EMS services within city limits.

The purpose is to cover an ongoing operational shortfall in reimbursements for ambulance transports in recent years, Tillotson said.

That shortfall has averaged about $250,000 per year for the past two years, a result of unpaid ambulance bills from individuals, as well as shortfalls in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to the city, he said.

As a result, the city has had to dip into its general fund reserves to make up the difference. The additional property tax is projected to generate up to an additional $369,000 annually for fire protection and EMS services, according to the ordinance that’s before council at tonight’s meeting.

Also on the City Council agenda tonight:

• A 5 p.m. work session with Colorado Department of Transportation Grand Avenue Bridge project officials to discuss next steps in the process, seek city input on pedestrian bridge designs, and to discuss construction traffic mitigation and funding challenges.

• Follow-up discussion on a downtown traffic circulation study, including scope of work, mission and appointment of study group members.

• Report on the 2012 city audit.

• Landfill fee rate proposal and discussion.

• Garfield Clean Energy 2014 funding request.

The regular City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

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