There are three questions related to funding for fire and emergency services in Montezuma County and voters will weigh in on up to two of them, depending on where they live. The issues differ somewhat — Referendums 5B and 5C concern a rural, all-volunteer fire district, while 5D addresses Cortez’s service, which is both professionally and volunteer-staffed — but the fundamental concerns are the same: Ensuring adequate funding to provide safe, fast, effective service with the appropriate personnel and equipment needed for responding to fire and emergency. Those are essential services to any community, and both the Lewis-Arriola and Cortez fire districts require a funding boost to ensure them. Vote ‘yes’ on referendums 5B, 5C and 5D.
LEWIS-ARRIOLA FIRE DISTRICT REFERENDUMS 5B AND 5C
As a large, rural district staffed by volunteers, Lewis-Arriola is challenged to keep up with equipment needs, including stations large enough to house both personnel and gear, sufficient to provide adequate service to its far-flung residents. Two ballot questions would help the district secure the infrastructure it needs to be effective. The first, 5B, would exempt the district from spending limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, allowing it to collect and spend more revenue — including grants — than is allowed under the constitutional cap. The second, 5C, would increase the district’s mill levy from 3.09 to 5.0. That jump would move Lewis-Arriola from dead-last in the mill levy rankings for Montezuma County fire districts, to tied for last place with Pleasant View Fire District. It is a modest increase that would fund needed investments for the all-volunteer department. Vote ‘yes’ on 5B and 5C.
CORTEZ FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT REFERENDUM 5D
The Cortez Fire Protection District was an all-volunteer operation until 2008, and has since added six paid staff members in addition to its crew of 23 volunteers. That is a robust group of dedicated personnel who provide firefighting and emergency service to a growing population. In order to maintain and grow the paid staff, as well as keep the district’s equipment up to date — an expensive undertaking given each item’s high-price — the district is asking its voters for a mill levy increase of 2.5 percent to provide approximately $361,000 in additional annual funding. That translates to just under $30 a year in additional property tax for a $150,000 home. A proposed increase of 3.5 mills failed in 2012; this year’s attempt is a dialed-down version that deserves voter approval, particularly because assessed values have fallen in recent years, creating a drag on the district’s budget.
The boosted coffers would allow the district to retain and recruit sufficient staff, as well as ensure that its personal safety gear and emergency equipment is updated and in line with national standards. These are important investments in community safety as well as that of our firefighters and emergency responders.
While the list of things that warrant funding outpaces too many families’ incomes, essential safety services deserve a place toward the top. By providing sufficient personnel and equipment, lives and structures are saved. That is worth a reasonable amount of additional spending and 5D proposes such an increase. Vote yes on the Cortez Fire Protection District’s Referendum 5D.