Colorado River Fire Rescue to use ‘rainy day’ fund instead of mill levy hike
Citizen Telegram Editor
Despite a “significant” reduction of more than 30 percent in assessed value – and the property tax revenue it will generate – in 2014, the Colorado River Fire Rescue authority will not ask voters for a mill levy increase in the Nov. 5 general election.
Fire Chief Mike Morgan said while other fire and special districts that also depend on property tax revenue for most of their expenses, the authority – which consists of the Rifle Fire Protection District and Burning Mountains Fire Protection District – has put money aside in a “rainy day” fund for just this sort of situation.
“We all know that the energy industry goes in cycles and it’s the major contributor to our property tax revenue,” Morgan said on Tuesday, Oct. 15. “Over the years, both Rifle and Burning Mountains were able to put some money into our reserves, which we will have to dip into for any capital purchases or expenses.”
Morgan said the authority, formed a little over a year ago to combine the operational aspects of the two fire districts, will not have to use reserve funds for operational costs.
“We’re looking at just under a $2.5 million dollar hit in our two districts” due to the lower assessed values, mostly in the natural gas industry, Morgan added. “So we’re going through the budget process now, cutting out capital expenses where we can. We won’t be able to add anything to our reserves like we did in the past.”
The authority is looking at a total 2014 operational budget of $7.2 million, Morgan said, which is $2.45 million less than this year, a 33 percent drop. The authority board is scheduled to adopt a budget on Dec. 10.
“We knew these days would be coming, so we set aside some money so it would be there when it rained,” Morgan said. “It’s raining now.”
Morgan added that while he couldn’t predict what the authority might do in coming years in terms of a mill levy hike, he didn’t expect voters to be asked to increase their property taxes in order to keep the fire engines and ambulances running.
“If we don’t start to have a rebound in the local economy in the near future, then we’ll have conversations,” he said.
Morgan noted the district will not have to reduce staff due to funding concerns, and plans to continue to provide service over it’s 700-square mile area with 47 full-time employees, 30 part-timers and around 35 volunteers.
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Rifle and New Castle are seeing decent increases in tax revenue, according to financial administrators.