Ballot 2019: Understanding the fire district measures |

Ballot 2019: Understanding the fire district measures

Drivers pass an American flag in front of the Grand Fire Protection District in this file photo.
Eli Pace /

Depending on where you live in Grand County, you might see a question on the ballot this year related to a fire protection district.

As the Gallagher Amendment continues to decrease tax revenues on residential properties, fire districts are hampered by the drops in funding.

The Gallagher Amendment requires that the amount of property taxes collected from homes statewide cannot account for more than 45% of total property tax collections.

Property owners do not pay taxes for the entire value of the home, only a portion. The assessment rate refers to what proportion of property value is taxed by mill levies.

One mill is equal to $1 of tax per $1000 of assessment rate. Colorado’s residential assessment rate is 7.2% this year, meaning 7.2% of a residential property’s value is taxed. For example, if your house is worth $500,000 at this assessment rate, you will pay property taxes on $36,000 of the home’s value.

Because of rising residential property growth and assessed valuations in Colorado, the assessment rate on homes has been lowered to comply with the 45/55 ratio over the years.

Those against these ballot measures are opposed to residential tax increases that the Gallagher Amendment protects against and may argue the fire districts do not need additional funding.

The Grand Lake Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 6A

This measure for the Grand Lake area proposes raising taxes by $380,000 by adding a mill levy rate no greater than 3 mills. In 2021, it asks to raise an additional $495,000 or 3.5 mills, whichever is less, and annually afterward following the elimination of the district’s debt service mill levy of that same amount. The mill levy rate would not increase more than 11.63 mills.

This would pay for general operating and other expenses, including creation of an emergency medical response program with ambulance service for the Grand Lake Area, enhancing the district’s wildland fire prevention and suppression capabilities, and providing the equipment and personal needed for these improvements.

The district’s operating levy rate would be subject to adjustment by the district’s board of directors to offset refunds, abatement and changes in percentage of property valuation used by the state to determine assessed valuation.

All district revenues would be collected up to the legal revenue limits.

East Grand County Fire Protection District No. 4 Ballot Issue 6B

The East Grand Fire Protection District ballot measure is different from Grand Lake’s in that it is not asking to raise taxes for 2020.

Instead, it is a stabilization measure that asks for authorization beginning next year to set the mill levy at a sufficient rate to generate tax revenues levied for collection in 2021.

This amount would be adjusted annually thereafter for inflation and local growth.

The measure would pay for operating and other expenses, including maintaining the current level of response, providing necessary protective gear and equipment, maintaining services needed to keep up with population growth and maintaining revenue that would otherwise be lost because of the Gallagher Amendment.

The district revenues would be collected up to legal revenue limits.

An informational sheet on the ballot measure provided by the East Grand Fire District outlined the growing population in the district, including emergency response call volume increasing by over 88% in the last 10 years.

The district also points out the seasonal population gets as high as 50,000 people while there is a full-time base of only 4,500 residents.

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