Voters approved a 1.41 mill levy increase for the Lewis-Arriola Fire Protection District in Tuesday’s election.
The measure passed by a vote of 847-628 – 57.42 percent to 42.58 percent – according to unofficial results. The increase brings the total mill levy increase to 4.5 mills.
“I want to thank the community for their support on this, it will be a huge help for the services we provide,” said Chief George Deavers.
He said the district needs the increase because general property tax revenues for the department have decreased by 44 percent from 2016 to 2018. The decrease is a result of reduced home values due to the Gallagher Amendment and a drop in revenue from Kinder Morgan carbon dioxide production.
“Our budget dropped from $700,000 to $439,000, and our calls for service keep going up,” Deavers said.
The state’s property tax system is hurting rural special districts, he said.
Under the Gallagher Amendment, 45 percent of total state property tax revenue must come from residential property, and 55 percent from commercial property.
The amendment mandates that the assessment rate for commercial property be fixed at 29 percent, and the residential rate be annually adjusted to keep the 45/55 split constant.
Because of rising home values on the Front Range, the residential rate was dropped statewide to stay within Gallagher’s ratio requirements. In Montezuma County, the residential rate recently dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent and is expected to drop to 6 percent in 2019.
“The request for a mill increase is to backfill those losses so we continue the needed level of services,” he said.
The fire district plans to use the mill levy revenue to replace aging equipment and place more emergency equipment in remote stations, Deavers said. By upgrading aging and ineffective equipment, the district hopes to qualify for a higher ISO Fire Rating, which leads to lower insurance rates for residents.
The all-volunteer fire department does not collect fees for emergency calls. It has four stations, 29 volunteer firefighters and EMTs, and the only rescue dive team in Montezuma County.
The district is on track to receive 200 calls for service this year, up from 165 calls last year, and it responds to structure fires and provides mutual aid for local fire districts. Lewis-Arriola responds to 40-60 wildland fires per year, usually started by lightning.
It covers Lewis-Arriola, Yellow Jacket, Goodman Point and part of McElmo Canyon.
The 1.41 mill will result in an increase on residential property of $10.15 per year for a $100,000 home.