Fire Protection District Q & A De-Bunking The Myths
The proposed establishment of the Estes Valley Fire Protection District to provide fire and rescue services to the entire Estes Valley will go to the voters this November. Each week until the election the Fire Services Initiative Committee will answer questions submitted by the residents of the Estes Valley. Questions are being grouped by subject. This week the questions involve the wide variety of inaccurate myths floating around the community concerning the establishment of a valley-wide Fire Protection District.
Myth: After the first year, the Town has no obligation to provide any of their sales tax revenue to the Fire District.
Fact: This is a red herring. In the State of Colorado, ALL Inter-Governmental Agreements dealing with money issues are automatically renewed annually. In approving the Service Plan, the Town Board of Trustees and the County Commissioners understood that this is a continuing obligation. While the Inter-Governmental Agreement must be renewed annually, both parties must be in agreement. It would make no political or fiscal sense for the Town trustees to even attempt to change the funding formula. The Town and all of the Estes Valley residents are the major beneficiaries of this plan.
Myth: After the first year, the Town will yank the funding and tell the Fire District to raise their mill levy to fund the District.
Fact: The Town cannot “yank the funding” (see above), and any increase of the mill levy to fund the District would require the approval of the voters of the District. The Fire Protection District can never raise the mill levy on its own.
Myth: There is nothing unfair or inadequate about the current funding of the Fire Department.
Fact: It is inherently unfair for residents of the Estes Valley to pay different rates for fire and rescue services. The proposed plan treats all residents of the District the same, and treats all businesses of the District the same. Projections suggest that the costs of the Fire Department will grow to the point that the Town cannot support the Fire Department’s excellent services without some sort of new funding, either at the expense of some other Town services or by going to the voters for an increase in the Town property tax. The proposed plan was carefully worked out to avoid this problem far into the future.
Myth: The Town has tons of money—they should just continue paying for the Fire Department.
Fact: The Town is fiscally well managed, but only has operating reserves amounting to 10-15% of its operating budget—the amount recommended by GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board). The Town has been providing fire and rescue services to the residents of the Estes Valley for so long that some residents have begun to believe it is a right. It’s not. The cost of Fire Services (training, equipment, specialized technology, and safety protection materials) is escalating at a rate exceeding inflation and exceeding the growth in sales and property tax revenues. It is time for the voters to establish a permanent solution to the funding of our fire and rescue services. Residents and visitors each need to share in the funding of this vital service.
Myth: Our businesses are already providing funding through sales tax to fund the Fire Department.
Fact: Businesses serve as the collecting agent for sales tax, but in no way are the businesses paying this tax. It is a pass-through from the customers. The reality is that the proposed plan has determined that 7% of the collected sales tax will be the proper amount to help fund the District. This collection has no effect on the business owner’s sales tax collections. The sales taxes remain unchanged under this proposal. The only difference is that a portion of the sales tax revenues are passed to the District to help fund its operations.
Myth: The Town will get a windfall with changes in Fire Department funding. The Town is just trying to milk more revenue.
Fact: No. The Town will see no savings. 7% of the sales tax revenue is about the same as the amount of the current budget, and the Town will be losing several hundred thousand dollars of income from the collected subscription fees.
Myth: The Fire Department is extremely well-funded and has more than they need and the Town will always support everything the department wants.
Fact: Currently, the Fire Department is funded to their current operational needs. It’s important to realize that their funding depends on both Town funding and the funding that the Department itself raises through donations, subscription fees, and fundraisers. However, the Town has no provision for covering the projected increase in their needs as the demand for their services grows in the future.
If you have any questions concerning the proposed establishment of the Estes Valley Fire Protection District you can email them to Tom Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.evfireservices.org.