The Future Of Fire District Funding
To The Editor:
Four years ago the citizens of the Estes Valley voted to create the Estes Valley Fire Protection District to fund and manage our Volunteer Fire Department. Prior to that, the Fire Department was funded and Managed by the Town of Estes Park. The voters approval of an independent Fire District was based on a funding formula that has approximately half of the funding coming from a Property Tax, and the other half coming from Sales Tax. This was deemed a fair solution because a large percentage of the Fire Department’s time and resources were spent on non-resident demands, and the only way to tax three million visitors is through Sales Tax.
By virtue of this arrangement, the Town of Estes Park was able to shed itself of the responsibility of running the Fire Department, and the ever-increasing financial demands of the Fire Department. For example, within the next few years the District will spend about $1,000,000 to replace three fire trucks which are almost 40 years old. By 2022 the 1991 ladder truck will have to be replaced at a cost of over $1,000,000. At this rate the average age of the fleet will still be over 12 years old.
On January 31st the Town Administrator released an informational article about the Town’s proposed 1% Sales Tax increase. It stated that, if the sales tax increase fails, financial support for the Estes Valley Fire Protection District was a potential budget cut that might be considered by the Town, along with many other non-essential services.
The Fire District is very concerned by the Town of Estes Park taking this position regarding the Fire District. Fire Protection & Rescue are essential community services, which protect the lives and property of the residents of the Estes Valley, including the Town of Estes Park. The funding structure was never considered as a temporary situation, nor was it presented to voters that way. For the Town to reduce funding to the Fire District would be a breach of the public trust.
The sales tax portion of the Fire District funding comes from the Town of Estes Park, as they collect sales tax revenues. It is important to remind the Town of their obligation and why it was created by the voters in the first place. The Town has a legal obligation to provide the agreed sales tax funds to the Fire District, and the agreement re-news automatically every year.
The greatest asset the Fire District has are our incredible VOLUNTEER firefighters. As a community we owe them much more than we can ever give them, but the least we can do is provide them with a stable financial foundation now, and in the future. To imply otherwise does them a great disservice.
The Estes Valley Fire Protection District Board of Directors
Frank Theis, Doug Klink, Mark Igel, Mike Kearney, Mike Richardson