Letter: We can’t afford to vote no on Issue A | VailDaily.com

Letter: We can’t afford to vote no on Issue A

Did you know that the Eagle River Fire Protection District gets actual calls to save cats stuck in trees? Local firefighters have also extracted puppies from pipes and horses from holes. They get called to broken garage doors in the middle of the night and are asked to bring their tallest ladders to change low-battery smoke detectors at residential properties. Did I mention this is free of charge? You read that correctly. They do not bill for these services — they show up ready to serve, which incidentally is their motto.

ERFPD needs this community’s help to be able to continue to provide this level of service. There is a hot mess of a state constitutional provision called the Gallagher Amendment, and it’s wreaking havoc on funding sources for Colorado special districts like ERFPD.

I just watched a YouTube explanation of the Gallagher Amendment, which is further complicated by TABOR; the interaction of these two well-meaning provisions of the state Constitution could mean a huge reduction in both ERFPD’s funding and ability to serve our community.

Full disclosure: I was already going to vote YES on Ballot Issue A before watching the aforementioned video, but I now fear without understanding a wildly complicated tax system, our voters are going to miss the boat on this important opportunity to support ERFPD and help it maintain its current level of funding. Maintain, meaning not raising, but keeping the same level of funding. Your taxes will not go up if you vote yes on Issue A.

If I was having a socially distant cup of coffee with you while talking this over, I’d ask you to close your eyes and recall the blanket of smoke that descended upon our valley in mid-August while wildfires too close for comfort raged in Glenwood Canyon and then in Wolcott. I’d also ask you to envision firefighters in N-95 masks and hazmat suits, gearing up to help patients suspected of having COVID-19. If you like, toss in a vision of your pet being stuck in a drainage culvert and then calling ERFPD for help.

With this in mind, let’s dive into the Gallagher amendment, which is about as much fun as climbing 20 flights of stairs wearing sweaty bunker gear and an air tank. Firefighters do that, too.

If I had to explain the nitty gritty of Gallagher to another human without any notes, I’d likely fail.

Here’s what I can share of my key takeaways and why I’m voting yes on Eagle River Fire Protection District’s Ballot Issue A:

  • The Gallagher amendment sets a statewide ratio of residential to commercial property taxes, roughly 45% residential to 55% commercial
  • Front Range home value increases are causing the statewide property tax to go down to accommodate the Gallagher ratio; this is negatively affecting funding in smaller areas like mountain towns and ERFPD’s service area.
  • There are limits on the percentage of special district funding that can come from residential property values across the entire state
  • If ERFPD does not get relief from Gallagher, it cannot maintain its current level of service with the drop in its funding

Vote yes. Vote yes because do you really want it on your conscience that you voted no the next time a fire sparks in the I-70 median or worse, in your back yard? Vote yes, so your emergency call is answered quickly and professionally instead of slowly or not at all. We can’t afford to vote no. 

Gretchen Stich


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