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Vote tied for tax increase

NICOLE FORMOSA
summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE ” It seems the Breckenridge-area community is split on whether homeowners should contribute more property taxes to the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District.

Even after election judges tallied the 254 votes cast in Tuesday’s special district election twice, the outcome remains unknown.

“At this point, without counting the provisional ballots, it’s a dead-even tie, 127 to 127,” said fire chief Gary Green Tuesday night. “That’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.”

The department had asked voters to approve a mill levy increase from 7.2 mills to 9 mills, or roughly $15 per $100,000 market value of a home.

The additional taxes would add about $900,000 per year to the department’s $4.7 million budget.

Today, a designated election official will contact those who filled out provisional ballots, which means they were either not on the registered voter list, or could not present a valid identification at the polls, or were not on the property owner list.

The judge will conduct a verification process, which could be as simple as somebody bringing in a valid form of identification or proof that they own property in the department’s district, which stretches from Hoosier Pass to the Frisco town limits.

At 2 p.m., the three election judges will reconvene to count the ballots a third time with the verified provisionals.

Green did not know how many provisional ballots were cast.

“Even if it’s one, it’ll go one way or the other,” Green said.

Green said that regardless of which way the election ends up, the department is concerned because the election was so tight. He said the department’s board of directors will likely explore a variety of possibilities, such as modifying service levels and discussing funding options.

“We’re disappointed because we were hoping for approval,” he said. “It also kind of lets us know we need to reevaluate things and move forward.”

People interviewed after voting Tuesday expressed differing opinions on the fire department’s request for more property taxes.

“They’re asking for an increase in taxes, yet the number of taxed homes has gone up in the last couple years, and the number of fire calls hasn’t kept up with it,” said Charlie Simpson.

On the other hand, Gretchen Abernathy was pulling for the increase to pass and voted yes “because we have to maintain our position as the best fire district in the valley.”

Voter turnout was good, Green said, although the 254 votes cast pales in comparison to the approximately 16,000 eligible voters.

If the mill levy increase passes, the department plans to use the extra money to replace an aging front-line fire truck, to take care of maintenance issues in two of the department’s three stations and to maintain the current level of service with 37 career firefighters in anticipation of growth in the area, including the development of the peak 7 and 8 base areas.

The department staffs stations in Blue River, on Main Street in Breckenridge and on Tiger Road 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is the second time in a month that a Summit County election has been close. In Dillon’s April 4 municipal election, town council candidate Don Parsons beat Lucinda Burns by only one vote.


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