Montezuma County residents will decide in November if the Cortez Fire Protection District receives an extra $360,000 in funding.
Chief Jeff Vandevoorde recently has been hitting the streets informing various constituents of a proposed 2.5 mill increase on local property taxes. If approved by voters, the measure would raise the department’s budget by approximately a third.
“Additional training and safety for our firefighters are our major priorities moving forward,” Vandevoorde told some two dozen people gathered Wednesday at the Montezuma County Senior Center.
The 2.5 mill levy increase means a home assessed at $150,000 would see annual property taxes rise by less than $30.
“Seniors are one of our largest segments of voters,” Vandevoorde said. “It’s important we get their support.”
Approximately 10 percent of the district’s $1 million budget is currently set aside for training and safety. Additional funding would also be used to replace aging equipment, some of which is two to three decades old, according to the chief.
“Each radio a firefighter carries, which is their life line, costs approximately $1,000,” he said. “A single firefighter’s turnout gear runs close to $6,000.”
According to Vandevoorde, the district hopes to purchase a new engine with assistance from a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant. The engine’s price tag is nearly $500,000.
“Whatever is your emergency, is our emergency,” the chief told the seniors.
Without equipment upgrades, Vandevoorde said both residents and firefighters potentially could face added risks in the future.
Over the past three years, the district’s annual budget has shrunk annually due to decreased assessment values in the housing market. In 2013, the budget was down more than $32,000 from 2010.
With six full-time firefighters and 23 volunteer firefighters, the Cortez Fire Protection District is responsible for covering 163 square miles.
In 2006, the district responded to 655 calls. Last year, firefighters answered 1,530 pleas for assistance.