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RWB tax increase passes

NICOLE FORMOSA
summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE ” An election to raise property taxes to support the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District came down to a single provisional ballot on Wednesday, proving that every vote really does count.

Election judges tallied the final results in the special district election at 128 votes in favor of the tax increase and 127 against, after taking into consideration the single verified provisional ballot, said the fire department’s public information officer Capt. Kim Scott.

The tie-breaking ballot cleared the way for the department to raise its operating mill levy from 7.2 mills to 9 mills, which could bring in up to $900,000 more per year.

The increase equates to roughly $15 per $100,000 market value of a home.

From the beginning the board of directors said that if the increase passed, it would raise the mill levy in increments as it deemed necessary, but the slimmest of slim margins by which it passed will have a further effect on how the levy is utilized, said board president Bob Greenly.

“It makes you stop and take stock of the fact that people want to make sure you’re spending money properly,” he said.

The board will look at various cost-cutting mechanisms to avoid raising taxes for as long as possible, Greenly said.

The earliest taxpayers could see any change on their property tax bill is January.

A provisional ballot is one cast by a voter who is not on the registered voter list, or could not present a valid identification at the polls, or is not on the property owner list.

After election judges counted regular and absentee ballots twice Tuesday night, they came up with a tie each time ” 127 to 127.

On Wednesday, designated election official Carmen Modglin verified the sole provisional ballot cast in the election, then two election judges recounted the votes to come up with a win for the fire department, Scott said.

Fire chief Gary Green said the tax increase amounts to what the department projects it will need to replace an aging fleet, address building maintenance issues and continue its current level of service over the next eight to 10 years.

If the department had to do the election over again, it would strive to communicate more aggressively with the public, in order to draw out some of the concerns that prevented people from voting in favor of the increase, Green said.

They held three sparsely attended public meetings in the weeks prior to the election.

Typically, the department keeps in frequent contact with the Breckenridge Town Council and the Blue River Town Board to gather feedback from the community.

“We feel the input they provide us gives us a pulse check of the community,” Green said. “Perhaps we depend on that a little too much.”

One move that could help the department keep in touch with its community is a new community advisory panel that the department will be forming in coming months.

The Red, White and Blue Fire Department runs on a $4.7 million budget, staffs 37 career firefighters who man three fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com.


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