Letter: Fire rescue needs stable, long-term funding source
February 7, 2019
In 2017, the City Council approached the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District to help find a sustainable funding source for fire and emergency medical services. A work group composed of representatives of the City Council, city staff and the fire protection district convened and evaluated ways to stabilize funding for fire and emergency medical services as well as relieve pressure on the city general fund for the costs of providing services.
The working group evaluated different options and kept the City Council and district board apprised of their progress. The group recommended to the council and the fire protection district that the best approach was to include the city into the district.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue provides fire and emergency medical services for the city and surrounding area in the district through an intergovernmental agreement with each partner contributing funds based on the demands for service in each area. The district’s contribution comes from property taxes; the city's through general city sales taxes.
The recommendation was reached after nearly a year of discussions with the city and evaluating several options. The city and the district began the process of bringing the recommendation to the voters for approval, but the city decided to withdraw before the issue reached the ballot.
This move was prompted by concerns from several commercial property owners who felt the property taxes would be too burdensome. City services are funded through a general sales taxes, and some disagreed with the idea of initiating a property tax in the city.
The city has recently assembled a citizens committee to undertake the process that the city and the district worked on last year. We sincerely hope that the citizens committee will find a stable, long-term funding source that is equitable for taxpayers and will meet the current and future needs of the city and district.
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We are truly lucky to have the quality care provided by our first responders. That said, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue is not able to keep up with the necessary service and infrastructure demands of our growing community without significant additional funding. These challenges are not new, and a solution must be found.
The fire protection district board of directors looks forward to working with the citizens committee and the city of Steamboat Springs to find a solution that best meets the needs of our community.
Eric Schmidt, board president, Karl Gills, vice president, Tom Ihrig, treasurer, and Randall Hannaway, secretary