Basalt fire district tax hike wins approval |

Basalt fire district tax hike wins approval

BASALT – Voters in the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District on Tuesday approved a property tax hike to partially offset the loss of revenues because of the recession.

The property tax increase was approved 1,373 to 893, according to preliminary unofficial results from the Eagle County and Pitkin County clerk and recorders’ offices. Pitkin County had mail-in ballots remaining to count as of 10 p.m., but the 61 percent to 39 percent margin of support appeared too great to overturn.

“We were feeling reasonably confident that it would pass,” said Bob Guion, president of the district’s board of directors.

Fire district officials stressed in a low-level campaign that their revenues from property taxes fell about 37 percent in 2011 and 2012 from pre-recession levels because property values dropped so drastically in the middle Roaring Fork Valley. Real estate experts have told the fire district to expect the assessed value of properties to drop an additional 20 to 30 percent in the next re-valuation, which will affect tax collections in 2014 and 2015.

Voters were asked to increase the district’s mill levy by 3.05. The approval will raise the tax rate from 4.95 mills to 8 mills.

The approval will increase the tax rate from $39.40 to $63.88 per $100,000 of home value per year.

Guion said voters he talked to understood that the district’s predicament was a product of the poor economy and sagging property values rather than poor fiscal management.

The fire district, which also provides midvalley ambulance service, deferred capital improvements and kept its operations budget flat for five years to try to offset the loss of revenues. It dipped into reserves to cover deficits in recent years.

Guion said the district would have been forced to consider cuts in service and paid personnel if the ballot measure hadn’t passed.

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