Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District budgets taxpayer rebate | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District budgets taxpayer rebate

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District will rebate more than $1 million in property taxes to residents next year.

Residents of the district voted in 2012 to increase property taxes by 3 mills. Capt. Jeff Edelson said during a board meeting Oct. 29 that the district is budgeting to rebate 2 mills next year because it saved close to 10 percent in its general operations this year.

The district historically has ended the year spending less than projected, Edelson said. This year it realized significant savings in salaries, particularly because it hasn't been paying a chief since early August, when Steve Sowles resigned.

The advertised salary for the position is $113,836 plus benefits. There were also firefighter positions that have now been filled but were open for several months. Firefighters kept overtime pay to a minimum, too, Edelson said.

In addition, revenue increased this year because the department dispatched equipment and crews to wildfires in other parts of Colorado.

The 2014 budget includes raises for staff members. Edelson and interim Chief John Mele also suggested adding an account that would prepare the department to handle natural disasters or hazards.

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Mele pointed to the Waldo Canyon Fire last spring and the flooding on the Front Range as examples of events that impact fire departments.

"There are costs that are being incurred by the fire districts that they just haven't thought of," Mele said.

The district currently has funds in an account called "emergency reserves." The men were suggesting classifying that fund to specifically address hazards.

"It'd seem to make sense to make a policy to govern it because this conversation will be lost a year from now," said board member Brian Olson.

The board will look at another draft of the budget at its next meeting and approve it in December.

Chief search

The search committee for the department's new chief has narrowed the list of applicants down to 12 candidates, Mele said. The application deadline was Sept. 18.

Board President Bill Boineau asked that the committee shorten the list more before conducting interviews.

"It's tough, but it's necessary to keep this process going," he said.

Darryl Grob, former Aspen fire chief, is serving as a resident-at-large on the committee.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com