The Lake Dillon Fire Protection District's Board of Directors is asking voters who live in the district to approve a very modest 0.741-mill increase in the property tax rate to help ease the current budget funding shortfall which resulted from the 17-percent decline in property values in 2011. Despite the ever-increasing costs of equipment, training and employee benefits such as healthcare, this is the first increase we have asked for in 11 years.
We know that tax increases are unpopular, and so we come to you, our fellow citizens, only after having done everything we possibly could to reduce or hold the line on expenses, including freezing salaries for two consecutive years, leaving vacated administrative and support positions unfilled, sharing of two staff positions with Red, White and Blue Fire, cooperatively providing shared services for training and fleet maintenance, aggressively pursuing state and federal funding grants, limiting attendance at out-of-district training and conferences, properly maintaining an aging fleet of fire apparatus under difficult and harsh environmental conditions, delaying capital purchases and cutting $1.2 million from this year's budget alone - all while continuing to sustain the high level of service that you've come to expect from your full-time, professional fire department.
A new initiative the board of directors instituted this year is actively pursuing the voluntary inclusion of properties located outside the boundaries of the district in order to generate additional property tax revenue. The positive response to date from property owners has been very encouraging.
The increase we propose would partially restore property tax funding for the department to 2011 levels, in effect offsetting the 5 percent additional decrease in assessed valuations projected by the Summit County Assessor's Office for certification in 2013. This is significant because Lake Dillon Fire derives about 90 percent of its annual budget from property taxes. Passage of the measure will ensure that we can continue to operate efficiently and safely while retaining a dedicated staff of well-trained, well-prepared and well-equipped professionals who are fully capable of responding to all hazards and emergencies. Given the annual increases in resident population, vehicular traffic, visitation and new property development during the past decade, plus the ever-present danger of wildfire outbreaks, we feel that it is paramount to make this tax-rate increase request now.
Currently, Lake Dillon Fire collects about $66 for every $100,000 of assessed property value, and if approved by the voters, the measure would add about $5.90 to that amount. In all, the proposed tax-rate increase would raise an estimated $553,323 annually, beginning next year, to be used for salaries, benefits, training, equipment, public education and maintenance of facilities.
By a unanimous vote of the five-member Lake Dillon Fire Protection District Board of Directors - your elected representatives and neighbors - this measure is being brought before you for approval as Ballot Question 5A.
The Summit County Board of County Commissioners also unanimously endorsed the measure in its Resolution No. 2012-63 adopted on Oct. 23.
May we please have your support, too?
Jerry Peterson, president
Linda St. John, vice president
Jim Cox, treasurer
Larry Gilliland, director
Robert Sollenberger, director