Durango Fire Protection District is asking voters in Durango and in rural La Plata County to approve a 2.5 mill levy increase to support fire protection, rescue and emergency services. For Durangoans, currently these services are covered by the city’s general fund that will continue and expand with the new mill levy, which the community should support.
Outside Durango, in DFPD’s 325-square mile service area that runs from the top of Coal Bank Pass to the New Mexico line (and between the Montezuma County line on the west and a few miles before Bayfield on the east), the requested 2.5 mills will be added to the existing 2.5 mills.
Demands on services are driving the need for additional revenue. In 2016, there were 5,080 calls, 4,000 of which were for rescue and higher level emergency medical services. With the calls that involve an ambulance, DFPD’s leadership points out that the limited number of ambulances – three – could result in a delayed response for an emergency.
The challenge is that the number of calls is far exceeding current and future expected population growth, while tax revenue has declined. The costs also go partially or fully unpaid because of individuals’ lack of insurance coverage and lack of reimbursement. This year, the district is drawing about $440,000 from its capital fund to support its $11.2 million per year operation. Without new mill levy revenues to support current and future operational and capital improvement needs, that amount will be higher in 2018.
For the owner of a $400,000 home, 2.5 mills is an increase of $72 annually. For a commercial building valued at $500,000, it would be $362.50. The 2.5 mill levy will raise approximately $3 million in its first year, and property owners will see the increase on their 2016 tax bills due in April.
The district currently employs 180 professionals, but only 74 are paid. The use of more than 100 volunteers make the district a sound return on investment that a separate for-profit ambulance service could not match.
The mill levy question must pass on each ballot, city and county, to go into effect. Votes cannot be totaled to determine whether the questions pass. Durango is not a member of the district; its services are provided by contract.
The additional revenue will fund operations, additional staffing, improved stations, a training facility and add to the district’s capital fund.
A new location for Station 2, now located on the Animas River at 12th Street, is not included in the ballot question.
DPFD has proved itself on three occasions this year: the vacated commercial building fire at 1111 Camino del Rio, the Tercero Townhouses fire on West Third Avenue and in partnering with other fire control resources to tame the Lightner Creek Fire.
To prepare for the future, to address a growing gap between revenue and demand for fire and emergency resources, for adequate response time from facilities that are close by and safe and comfortable for firefighters, Durango and fire district residents should vote “yes” on the requests.
HHHThree of the five Durango 9-R school board seats are up for election, but only one district offers a choice. Nancy Stubbs (A) and Mick Souder (C) are running unopposed.
In District E, Shere Byrd, appointed in August to replace Andy Burns (who resigned in June), is running to retain the seat. She is opposed by Emily Newcomer, a licensed mental health professional determined to ensure that district students and staff gain the skills needed to cope with trauma.
Both candidates are imaginative, both are highly qualified and both are parents of children in the district. The board will benefit either way.
But Byrd, who has years of teaching experience and service on a variety of local boards, has just settled into her seat. Now that she is up and running, she deserves to serve. Vote to retain Shere Byrd.