The Dolores Fire Protection District is asking voters for a mill levy increase to help replace worn-out equipment.
The May 5 mail ballot election requests that the mill levy be raised from 6 mills to 10 mills.
Ballots must be mailed or dropped off by 7 p.m. May 5 to the designated election official, Keenen D. Lovett, 22 East Main St., Cortez, CO 81321. Telephone contact is 970-565-7209. Be aware that mailings can take seven to 10 days to be delivered.
The Dolores Fire Protection District mill levy was at 8.95 in 1998, but has since dropped to 6 mills as a result of the ratcheting down effect of the Gallagher Amendment and Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment, said Dolores Fire Protection District Chief Mike Zion.
“If passed, the new 10 mill rate would be frozen, and would not go up or down,” he said.
The 4 mill increase would generate $225,000 to $250,000 per year.
The additional revenue would be used to:
Finance replacement of worn out equipment, including a 46-year-old tanker truck, a 38-year-old equipment truck, a 46-year-old brush truck and a 32-year-old fire engine. Total estimated costs for replacement is $930,000 to $1.4 million.Provide up-to-date firefighter safety equipment, training programs for volunteers and wildfire mitigation projects. Repair equipment station roof, and save for a future substation up the Dolores River where there is less coverage, but increasing calls for emergency service along Colorado Highway 145.The district is operated by 18 trained, unpaid volunteers. It has a main station in the town of Dolores and two substations, with coverage of 366 square miles serving 3,958 residences.
Because of the drop in the mill levy, after operating costs the district has insufficient funds to replace worn out equipment, Zion said, and there is not enough to provide matching funds for grants.
The District has a yearly budget of $328,000, and with $275,000 in operating costs. The remaining goes toward training and equipment.
Keeping equipment upgraded at the fire department is important for public safety and is tied to insurance rates for local homes and businesses, according to ballot question information.
The Insurance Services Offices rates fire districts between 1 and 10 to determine rates, with 1 representing the highest fire safety service possible, and 10 being the worst.
Dolores Fire has a level 3 rating, a high assessment for a rural volunteer department, Zion said, and it has kept the good rating for 22 years.
The district is up for inspection by the National Fire Protection Association that determines the ISO rating.
“One of the requirement to keep the good rating is to show we are replacing any old and outdated equipment,” Zion said.
In 2018 the district responded to 420 calls for service, up from 350 in 2017. It responds to vehicle crashes, structure fires, wildfires, medical calls, hazardous material spills and rescues on the Dolores River and McPhee Reservoir.
If passed, a $100,000 home would see an increase in property taxes of $28.60 per year, or $2.38 per month, according to the Montezuma County Assessors office.