Rising home values in Denver are crippling small rural Colorado fire departments
Colorado Divide: A $450 million property tax cut will help urban homeowners but hurt rural fire departments already struggling stay afloat
November 28, 2017
In a mobile home park where the Eastern Plains meet the Denver suburbs, the Sable Altura fire station sticks out like a sore thumb from its modest surroundings.
Its fire engines are state-of-the-art — shiny trucks you’d find at one of the big metro fire departments 20 miles west. The trouble is: Years after replacing its run-down vehicles with the help of grant dollars, the ever-shrinking district can’t afford to hire firefighters to operate them.
District officials insist they make do with what they have, but what they have isn’t enough to reliably respond to emergencies 24/7.
Wages are low. Turnover is high. Volunteerism is down. Costs are up.
And for Sable Altura and other rural fire districts facing a financial pinch, it’s only going to get worse.
Booming home values along the Front Range are triggering cascading statewide property tax cuts, providing relief to urban homeowners but squeezing government agencies in rural areas where property values weren’t growing in the first place. The reason: a little-known property tax-limiting provision of Colorado’s state constitution.
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