Eagle Valley’s paramedic, library districts ask for relief from Gallagher Amendment

Fire districts in Eagle, Gypsum have already received voter approval for similar measures

Eagle County Paramedic Services operates ambulances using five stations from Gypsum to Vail, with up to 13 ambulances providing 24-7, 365-day coverage.
Courtesy Eagle County Paramedic Services
By the numbers:
  • $13 million: Approximate annual budget of Eagle County Paramedic Services.
  • $990,000: Projected 2022 shortfall.
  • $4.9 million: 2018 property tax collections for the Eagle Valley Library District.
  • $5.4 million: Total 2018 revenues for that district.
  • Sources: Eagle County Paramedic Services; Eagle Valley Library District.

EAGLE COUNTY — The Gallagher Amendment seemed like a good idea when Colorado voters passed it in 1982. These days, many of the state’s special districts are being hit hard by its requirements.

The amendment, named for its sponsor, former state legislator Dennis Gallagher, mandates that property tax collections are split between residential and non-residential property owners. Residential property taxes must be no more than 45% of collections across the state. Non-residential property owners pay 55% of the total.

When the amendment was first passed, residential property was taxed at 22% of its county-assessed value. Non-residential property was taxed at 29% of its assessed value. Both of those are maximum percentages.

As more homes were built and property values rose, the residential taxing percentage has fallen over the years. That percentage is expected to be 7.15% for the 2019 tax year, and is expected to decline further in coming years.

Feeling the pinch

The reduction in residential tax rates has hit hard in special districts in rural counties. There isn’t enough non-residential tax base to cover the continual decline.

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That’s led rural special districts across the state to ask voters for an exemption to the Gallagher requirements. In Eagle County, the Gypsum Fire Protection District and Greater Eagle Fire Protection District in the last couple of years have asked for, and received, voter approval for those exemptions.

This year, Eagle County Paramedic Services and the Eagle Valley Library District are asking voters for similar exemptions. Those ballot questions are 6B for the paramedic district, and 6A for the library district. In both cases, the districts are asking voters to maintain the current tax percentage, in order to avoid future revenue losses.

Local resident Cliff Thompson is volunteering his time for the paramedic district’s effort. Thompson said the district’s projections show a potential annual loss of roughly $990,000 in 2022. That’s a big chunk of the district’s current budget of about $13 million per year.

Cuts if no relief

Both districts’ fact sheets note that services could be cut if voters don’t approve the exemptions.

In the library district’s case, the cuts could come to a broad range of services, including hours of operation, programs, and the purchases of books and other materials. The reductions could also eventually hit digital resources and could slow the district’s upgrades to existing technology.

At the paramedic district, director Chris Montera noted that staffing paramedics and ambulances is a full-time, around-the-clock operation. Losing revenue will make it difficult to provide current levels of service and training, he said.

The website of the Vote Yes for 6B effort notes that the cost of providing service is rising even while revenue continues to fall. The website cites costs including insurance, new ambulances — which cost about $250,000 each — other new equipment and maintenance. Then there’s the fact that calls for service continue to increase every year.

Montera said the district answered about 5,200 calls in 2018. That number is expected to increase by about 10% this year.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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