Urges A “No” Vote For Fire District
As an Estes Park business owner, I invested in our community. Businesses are the portal by which wealth enters and circulates through the Valley. We collect the sales taxes that fund essential Town services. Town trustees are charged with overseeing the spending of these precious sales tax dollars. Our many small business owners investing in Estes Park have afforded home owners consistently low and reasonable property taxes.
Police and fire protection are vital to any community. Town officials repeatedly assure us that the town has enough sales taxes to spend, and they are spending at the rate they projected. That assurance is intended to sooth voters. Why then are the trustees so adamant about exiling our fire department from the abundantly funded Town management team?
In a nutshell the political maneuvering has been this: Trustees have previously under-funded the fire department and pushed for two failed Fire District proposals. Later, trustees offered an insurance fee to County residents. A few County residents squawked. The trustees now stir the pot in the press (pitting neighbor against neighbor) and offer a tax hike as the best solution.
Why? The Town craves more sales tax dollars for more discretionary spending, at the expense of guaranteeing fire services for their constituents. If the fire department actually depended upon fund-raisers and bake sales to function, as is depicted by the Town Hall public relations team, then shame on the Trustees for failing to meet their obligation to fund essential services.
Would anyone get elected Mayor or Trustee on the political platform of; “If you elect me I intend to throw your fire department out the door of Town Hall, and put fire protection under the control of a (yet to be determined) group. I will accomplish this task by raising your property taxes.” This is what your town board voted unanimously to accomplish. An annual business license is more expensive than the voluntary fee offered to County residents for complete fire service insurance.
If the fire department suffers when it competes against other town departments in the annual budgeting process, it is a self – inflicted wound. Budgeting priorities and spending oversight are the Town Boards only function. They alone determine spending priorities.
If the mill levy is adopted, fire services will still be funded “in competition” with all other Town departments. Half the money will still come from the Town sales taxes. After 2010, the Town will have no legal obligation to give the Fire District any sales tax money. If the Town Board concludes other services are more important, it will be legally entitled to cut sales tax funding to the Fire District. Such a cut could require the Fire District to seek future mill levy increases.
If created, the new Fire District would then also “compete” with all the other special districts for property tax dollars. This is a daunting prospect with a paid staff of “two” and a score of brave volunteers who put out our fires, but are not politicians. Existing Valley districts are operating on bare bone budgets. Only Town Hall has “discretionary funds,” because Town Hall Trustees get all the sales tax dollars.
The new fire district also will be committed to provide fire protection to tens of millions of dollars of existing structures which are tax exempt and will not contribute a dime to the mill levy. The YMCA and dozens of other tax-exempts pay no property taxes.
As a businesses owner I am convinced the fire district is bad business for the business community and all residents of the Valley. There is no gain or advantage to expanding government and our collective tax rolls. Rather than raise taxes, it would be wise for the town trustees to reevaluate spending priorities and wants, as we all must, during these difficult times. For the third and final time please vote NO to this fire district idea.
Estes Park, Colorado
Local Business Affairs – No Fire District Tax Issue Committee
Estes Park, CO