Carbondale fire district levy passes

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – The Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District will receive a property tax boost for the next two years to maintain fire and ambulance service at current levels.

Fire district voters approved a $775,000 mill levy override in Tuesday’s mail ballot election by a comfortable margin, according to unofficial final election results from both the Garfield and Pitkin county portions of the fire district.

Districtwide, 60 percent of voters favored the measure, with 1,895 in support and 1,209 against the proposal.

“I think it’s a wonderful show of support for the volunteers, career firefighters and the elected officials of the fire district,” longtime Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach said.

“It just shows that the community supports this fire district, and the men and women that comprise it,” he said.

The override will increase the fire district’s tax rate from its current 5.903 mills to a new rate of 8.0 mills for the 2012 budget year. The tax hike will expire after two years, however.

Carbondale Fire District Board Vice President Mike Kennedy said the so-called sunset clause likely made a difference in voter’s minds.

“Definitely, I think it did,” he said. “People saw it as we’re not looking for something that’s forever.

“That’s not to say we might not have to come back to voters in two years, but at least we have two years to plan for that future and try to make some cuts,” he said.

Property values throughout the 320-square-mile fire district fell by 28 percent over the past three years, and are expected to remain at that lowered level for at least two years. The override is intended to make up for that loss.

“I think it’s a real testament to the relationship our fire district has with the people in the district,” Kennedy said of the favorable vote. “They support us, and hopefully we’ve earned that support and will continue to.”

Had the mill levy override not passed, Leach said the district would likely have had to cut five positions from its paid staff of 20 employees. The district also has an active roster of about 70 volunteers.