With old equipment, the smallest staff to augment volunteers and the largest territory to cover among the valley’s fire districts, Gypsum faces another cut in revenue with property value dropping 23 percent.
The fire protection district needs help from its voters just to scrape by at this point, Chief Dave Vroman explains.
The town of Vail and the voters in the Eagle River Fire Protection District have seen the need to invest in their own safety in recent years, and the Greater Eagle district on a mill levy basis has a little more to work with than Gypsum now.
Gypsum held back from asking for help from the voters until last year. The voters said no then. They should say yes this election.
The price for firefighters being first responders to car accidents, heart attacks, wildfires and yes, house fires, becomes very low when it’s your or your loved ones’ lives and property they are saving.
If you own a home worth $200,000, the price is an additional $7 a month for the fire district to maintain where it is now. No big raises. No fancy new gear. No great investments. Much as all that actually may be needed for the future, that’s not what this request is about.
Gypsum is small enough that you can drop in at the town fire station and see for yourself. The chief will be happy to talk with you about the department’s needs and how that might affect service for you, which no one hopes you’ll ever need.
Gypsum is the most conservative community in the county. And even with economic recovery that has sales tax revenues countywide up around 6 percent above last year at this time, obviously recession’s weight still lingers.
So this might the toughest community for getting a tax increase of any kind passed.
I’d submit that starving the local fire department isn’t a wise course even for ardent conservatives. After all, don’t the firefighters count as bottom line “life and safety” that should be funded, along with police, roads and at a national level, the military?
The fire district held out through the first few years of the downturn, aided by the odd timing of property valuations that slowed the pace of declines in its source of revenue. Now that timing serves as a hangover as the general economy improves, while older property valuations cause this revenue to continue declining.
If they weren’t in rather desperate straits, they wouldn’t be asking again for the second year, I’m sure.
It took Eagle River two years to get the message across and win approval for their tax hike. This year’s request by Gypsum has the notable improvement of a sunset on the tax.
The idea is to get the department across a funding chasm. As property values grow, the need for help will lessen, and this rate increase would end in six years.
So while the levy would increase to about where Greater Eagle’s rate is now, it’s not forever.
But the need is now. Gypsum Fire is there for you. They just need you to be there for them.
So they can continue to do their part.