Citizen Telegram letters: Helping CRFR, Clarifying information
Please help Colorado River Fire Rescue
When I received my ballot for Issue A, Colorado River Fire Rescue asking for a mill levy increase, I wondered why they needed more money. So I did my research.
First, I read the literature that showed up in my mailbox. It surprised me to find that Rifle had not seen a tax increase for emergency services in 25 years, and Silt/New Castle hadn’t see one for 16 years. That speaks to good economic times and responsible fiscal management by our special districts.
Second, I went to the County Assessor’s website and looked at the mill levy assessment abstracts. Sure enough, our local fire department’s mill levy is less than most of the fire districts in the county, and half as much as the mill levy for our comparable neighbors, Glenwood and Carbondale.
Typically, I don’t vote “yes” for tax measures until I do my research. All things considered, I think the fire district is due for some community support to get the funding they need to protect us, and I’ll be proud to vote “yes” for Issue A.
Raelyn Westley, New Castle
Clarifying fire rescue information
To Mr. Cliff Dick in Rifle, I’d like to express my agreement and make a correction to an erroneous interpretation.
Regarding Colorado River Fire Rescue’s mill levy ballot issue, Mr. Dick stated that he believes the district needs the additional funding. I strongly agree with you on this. Based on the TABOR notice I received, it’s clear that passing this mill levy won’t even provide the same level of revenues the district had in 2016, and our communities have experienced considerable growth since then, with more to come. The 2016 budget was just under $10.5 million, while the proposed 2020 budget is only $8.2 million. $2.2 million of the 2020 budget came out of nearly depleted district reserves, which are enough to support the budget in that manner for only two more years (if you’re wondering, I requested a copy of the budget from the district administrative director). If the community chooses to pass this mill levy, we’ll be able to restore funding to 2016 levels, adding the $4.7 million projected in the TABOR notice to the current $6 million tax revenue.
Where I disagree is your interpretation that the term “annual” in the ballot language will give the district the ability to increase taxes each year as they see fit. It doesn’t mean that. It simply means that the mill levy adjustment will be permanent, occurring each year moving forward, and providing sustainable funding to meet the emergency needs of our growing and diverse community. In reality, it’s likely the district will still have to face slowly receding revenues in the future as complex TABOR/Gallagher laws interact, industries ebb and flow, and property values fluctuate. If you’ve attended the community informational meetings on this issue, you’ll know that these factors are the primary causes of the district’s drastic revenue drops.
That ballot language was subjected to a vigorous vetting process by attorneys, consultants and elected officials to ensure that the legal meaning is as I’ve described. If you’re interested in knowing the details, contact the fire chief. That’s what I did.
Matt Starr, Rifle
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