Post Independent opinion: Fire district’s mill levy a fair request |

Post Independent opinion: Fire district’s mill levy a fair request

Post IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Talk about a smokin’ good deal.The Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District is asking voters for $14 per $100,000 of assessed residential value to maintain service at current levels.This is a small amount to pay for excellent emergency services. We concede that in these times, a tax increase is going to be painful for most property owners. But no matter what our finances look like, we all want emergency services to respond quickly if our home catches fire or a loved one suffers a heart attack.This mill levy override would be in place for the next two years. Then it would be extinguished. The district is counting on the economy improving by then. Let’s hope they’re right about that. But if the economy does not improve, passing the mill levy now will assure that the fire district can invest in up-to-date equipment in 2012 and 2013, which would carry it into a slim budget in 2014 and beyond.Fire Chief Ron Leach explains that without the mill levy increase, the district could face a $775,000 drop in revenues. One consequence could be laying off five out of 20 paid employees. The subsequent increased reliance on volunteers is likely to slow response time because the volunteers have to get to the station before the trucks can roll.If the mill levy doesn’t pass, the district would also have to delay replacement of aging equipment, a sobering thought when that truck is headed to your house. In addition to the risk of breakdown – trucks wheezing to a halt mid-call – maintenance costs also increase. Leach says property values in the district – which covers parts of Garfield, Pitkin and Gunnison counties – have fallen 28 percent. Many tax increase critics suggest that government entities should just cut back like private businesses and the rest of us at home. But how could we expect our emergency services to function with a 28 percent cut? And why would we ask them to? The fire district not only fights structure fires, it fights wildland fires, responds to accidents with paramedics and runs the ambulance service.The fire district employees are in a tough spot. It’s their job to provide these services even if the override doesn’t pass. They don’t want to be in the position where they can’t do the job quickly and efficiently. No firefighter looking at the charred remains of a house will find solace in the fact that they could have gotten there sooner if it weren’t for budget cuts.It would be a stretch to suggest that we’re fired up about another tax increase for Carbondale-area voters. But emergency services are one place we don’t want to be cutting corners.Vote yes on 4A, the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District mill levy override, to maintain the current level of funding and service – and for peace of mind.

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