Eagle River Fire Protection District cancels election and tax increase question
Move comes as property values set to jump
The Eagle River Fire Protection District Board of Directors unanimously voted Thursday to cancel the district’s planned May 2 election.
At issue on that ballot was a tax increase question. The question would have added 2 mills to the district’s current mill levy — or tax rate. If passed, the mill levy increase would have raised about $2 million per year, to use for new equipment and maintenance.
District Chief Karl Bauer said the district board made the decision in light of recent news that the latest Eagle County re-valuation of property will result in an average 70% increase in assessed value.
How much that might affect property tax bills is a mixed bag, depending on factors including districts’ compliance with, or exemptions from, the state’s Taxpayer Bill or Rights constitutional amendment.
In the case of the fire district, a 2012 ballot issue — which voters passed — promised that the district wouldn’t increase revenue beyond growth and inflation as property values increased.
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With the district looking at needs ranging from a new ladder truck to self-contained breathing apparatus, the board decided to ask voters for more revenue.
That plan is now on hold.
“We heard a very consistent message from the community,” Bauer said. “(Taxpayers) support the district, and want firefighters to be well-trained and well-equipped. But they have genuine concerns about” their tax bills.
With that in mind, Bauer said the district’s board decided to have more community meetings to explain the district’s needs.
Despite backing down from the ballot measure, Bauer said the district’s needs remain.
The district’s ladder truck is nearing the end of its useful life, Bauer said. Replacing that truck will be expensive — at least $1.5 million — and will take at least 18 months between the order and delivery dates.
In addition, the district wants to add to its inventory of self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters. Bauer said the district needs upward of 70 of the devices. It also needs to have a consistent supply in stock, so firefighters know how to operate any randomly-chosen apparatus on a fire scene.
In addition to that gear, Bauer said the district wants to modernize and add to its wildland firefighting inventory and rescue gear.
All gear only lasts so long before it needs to be replaced, Bauer said, adding that all the gear also needs regular maintenance.
With those needs in mind, Bauer said the district will be forming an advisory committee made up of district residents. That committee will “vet ideas, and ultimately bring forth recommendations,” Bauer said.