Unofficial count has Grand voters backing EMS, fire department, schools with additional funding
Based on unofficial election results, Grand County voters may have approved all four property tax questions on Tuesday.
The Grand County clerk estimates that just under 100 ballots are left to count, and tax questions for Grand Emergency Medical Services, Grand Fire Protection District and East Grand School District are all passing by comfortable margins.
At the same time, West Grand School District’s tax measure is only separated by a handful of votes, and the count is currently leaning in favor of providing additional funding for West Grand schools as well.
The official election results will not be available until Nov. 12. With such a close margin, the West Grand measure will be hard to call until all the votes are counted. Still, it appears that Grand County voters have spoken in favor of providing better funding to local agencies and school districts.
Based on Tuesday’s voting totals, Grand Fire saw the greatest support.
The department was asking voters to bring its total mill levy rate up to 10 mills, and the most recent voting results put more than 65% of ballots in favor of the measure with just 34.8% against.
In the middle of a training exercise Tuesday night, Grand Fire Chief Brad White was excited to see voters carry their support for the department to the ballot box.
“We work with the community a lot, so it’s nice they’re willing to back us up on this,” he said.
The ballot measure will raise roughly $341,000 more annually for capital upgrades, fire prevention and personnel. The cost to residential property owners will be $12.19 per $100,000.
White said the district will prioritize capital projects and replacing old equipment, along with expanding the department to meet the growing demand.
“We’re looking to prepare for the future and the growth,” White said.
The East Grand School District has now seen voter approval for a tax question two years in a row after district voters favored an $85 million bond measure 54.1% to 45.9% on Tuesday.
The bond measure will increase taxes by up to $7.1 million per year for the next 20 years. This equals $44.48 more in taxes yearly per $100,000 of residential property value, while commercial properties would pay $180.42 more per $100,000 of value.
East Grand schools will use the money for major facility upgrades promised in the bond — including a brand new elementary school that’s expected to be finished as early as the end of 2023. The bond will also pay off the school security upgrades completed last year.
Coupled with the other tax increases, some Grand County voters had up to three tax questions on their ballots. Coming into the election, East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves said he was was hopeful, but nervous.
“We polled really well, but we had never asked the question if support was there along with other tax increase questions,” Reeves said.
With a promise of a new elementary school, career and technical education center, and much more, there’s a lot of work to do.
“I’m excited to get really busy — not like we’re not really busy already,” Reeves said. “This is going to be really fun work and worthwhile. (It will) be that step to move the district even further along in the right direction.”
Because the school district and Grand Fire were both asking for funding increases, some residents worried Grand EMS would get left out with EMS seeking to raise revenue by over $1.65 million.
Despite not increasing its mill levy since 2003, Grand EMS has faced a growing demand for services while experiencing major capital, equipment and staffing expenditures beyond the department’s revenue projections. Without the additional funding, Grand EMS feared its two oldest buildings could become unsafe to work inside, that aging vehicles might elongate emergency response times and that the department could lose even more trained staff.
To address those needs, Grand EMS Chief Robert Good spent the months leading up to the election asking voters for a 1.75 mill increase, equal to an increase of $62 per year for someone with a $500,000 home. They responded by backing Grand EMS and favoring the measure 51.3% to 48.6%.
Before the election, White, Good and Reeves all had made cases for the tax increases, and the additional revenue approved by voters will help address many of their needs, including new equipment and facility upgrades, help with retaining and hiring workers, and more.
For East Grand schools, the district already has a lease on land for a new Granby Elementary School. The parcel, known as Reclamation Ridge Lot 2, sits next to East Grand Middle School. The lease has an option to purchase the 21 acres at any time for $1.25 million, and with the measure likely to pass, the purchase could take place soon.
Because Granby Elementary is at full capacity, Reeves said the district is jumping right into construction plans.
“My goals were to open at the beginning of 2023,” he said. “That’s probably not realistic with the state of construction right now. In the working timelines, we’re looking at least for the elementary school to move in at Christmas time in ‘23, ‘24. That seems to be — with the construction people — a more realistic goal.”
As for the other upgrades, Reeves is still working out the timelines. His hope is to get the work done by 2023. With voters approving the bond, that just might be possible.
“I really, really, really want to thank our community,” Reeves said. “If we look around the state, there’s not a lot of these measures that passed or were successful. I think we need to realize that and be thankful to our community at all times for what they’ve chosen to do.”
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