Stakeholders discuss Summit County ballot questions at election forum
With two questions on Summit County’s ballot potentially affecting taxpayers this year, stakeholders answered questions at the Monday, Oct. 18, election forum.
In ballot Issue 6A, Summit Fire & EMS is hoping to increase the district’s existing property tax mill levy by 4 mills, from 9 to 13 mills, because of the 2014 “Safety First” tax set to sunset at the end of 2022 and the loss of ambulance transfer service revenue. The move would increase tax revenue for the district by a little more than $4.5 million annually.
Travis Davis, fire chief at Summit Fire, spoke in favor of the proposed property tax increase benefiting Summit Fire and said he is confident the increase can sustain the district’s operations into the future. He said while the district will invest in designing a Silverthorne outpost station, it can’t guarantee the station in the ballot question.
“We had to be careful about what we put in our ballot question because we don’t want to make promises we can’t keep,” Davis said. “Clearly, it is an objective for us moving forward.”
Davis said that since combining EMS and fire services under one roof, the district has been able to reduce EMS transportation costs. He also said limiting its service to just the county keeps taxpayer dollars local.
“The decision to separate from out-of-county transports supports the normal hazard response here at home,” Davis said. “It keeps the taxpayers’ dollars at work here in the community and decreases our risk as an agency, making sure our resources are where they need to be.”
Davis also said the tax increase will give the district the ability to launch a districtwide wildfire program focused on mitigation in its service areas. He said an increase has to pass eventually for the district to sustain service levels.
The other question on this year’s ballot is 6B, which asks voters to approve a 20-year extension on the the 0.6% Summit Combined Housing Authority sales tax, which was first approved by voters in 2016 for 10 years, to fund affordable housing projects.
Patti McLaughlin, chair of the Summit County Democrats, spoke in favor of the affordable housing measure at the election forum. She said the sales tax already exists, noting that there is no tax increase proposed.
McLaughlin said the county needs a long-term plan of money coming in to support affordable housing, which is why the measure is being proposed five years prior to the original tax sunsetting.
“We all know we’re in a housing crisis,” McLaughlin said. “We need solutions.”
McLaughlin said it’s essential to find solutions, and 6B is the next step.
“This is a county that cares about people and what will be good for them and what will help,” McLaughlin said. “So I am confident that you will do the right thing and vote ‘yes’ on 6B.”
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