In this era of record-breaking, catastrophic wildfires in our county and across the West, what could be more important than proper funding of our own Upper Pine River Fire Protection District?
Perhaps most voters now understand that the current property tax mill levy, set in 1998, is no longer adequate to fund the emergency services provided by UPRFPD. Tax revenue that supports the fire district has been reduced by $1.175 million (46 percent) since 2010 because of reduced gas and oil revenue and decreased property values.
Another big financial change occurred in 2007 when the district went from a volunteer force to a full-time district, paid for by the reserve fund, which will be nearly exhausted by the end of this year.
Beyond these facts and figures, we at Coolwater/Los Pinos subdivisions near Vallecito have firsthand experience with UPRFPD that has made me a solid supporter of this tax increase. Thanks to the innovative fire-mitigation program initiated by UPRFPD in 2010, many local property owners have partnered with Upper Pine to create defensible space around our homes. We watched as these dauntless, lionhearted firefighters felled trees and cleared fuel on our properties to help keep us safe from wildfire. Over and over that summer of 2012, they were called away from our project to fight the wildfires that continued to erupt. I was shocked to learn that budget limitations here mean that they are paid only $9 to $13 an hour for risking their lives in this unbelievably demanding work. Increasing pay for firefighters is one of the benefits we can realize by passing this ballot question.
Despite the many creative and thorough efforts Upper Pine has made to reduce costs and increase revenue, the cupboards will soon be bare, and the staff has already been reduced by 50 percent. Vote “yes” on Ballot Question 4A. This is the least we residents can do to support the people who do so much to protect us and who will come to our aid in the event of fire or emergency medical issues.
Durango and Vallecito