Tax hike would raise $1.5 million per year
AVON – The biggest fire district in the valley wants quite a bit more money, and, one board member says, “It’s time.””You can see fingerprints on some of the pennies, we’ve pinched them so hard,” said Michael Gallagher, a member of the Eagle River Fire Protection District’s board of directors. “Our stewardship has been magnificent.”Now, though, more money is needed.”Our only ladder truck is more than 20 years old. Have you ever heard of metal fatigue?” said Gallagher, who’s running unopposed for re-election. If voters agree to boost the district’s tax collections by about 50 percent, the money will go toward new equipment, new people, and, renovations to the district’s fire stations.
But one Avon resident wonders why the current tax income isn’t enough for the district.According to information from the Eagle County Treasurer’s Office, the district’s tax collections increased by nearly $900,000 between 2000 – the year the district was created – and 2004. Those increases also include the year Minturn and Red Cliff started paying into the district.”I think the fire district does an excellent job,” Pete Buckley said. “But every time a new home is built, or the value of a home goes up, they get more money. Why do they need more than that?”The answer, Gallagher said, is because the tax rate was set too low to start.”The (tax rate) was set very low to start, and the purpose was to get people to vote to create the district,” Gallagher said. “Because of that, we’ve had a make due or do without stewardship.In addition to the age of some of the district’s equipment, Gallagher said firefighter jobs haven’t been filled. In some cases, that has left firefighters running stations instead of officers.”That’s not a matter of rank, it’s a matter of training and experience,” Gallagher said.
Besides the staff shortages, the district hasn’t been able to raise its pay rates to keep up with similar-sized districts.”It’s just reality,” Gallagher said. “We wouldn’t raise it if we didn’t need to. If the (tax rate) had been set at the level we’re looking at now, we’d be fine.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado