West Routt voters approve funding increase for fire district
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11 p.m. to include final election night results.
Voters in and around Hayden approved a 3-mill property tax increase to boost funding for the West Routt Fire Protection District on Tuesday, a move will help address both the deteriorating infrastructure of the district and declining property tax revenues from energy extraction.
Referendum 6A passed 426 to 402. There are 122 ballots countywide, 102 of them cure ballots, that still need to be counted.
“It means breathing room for my staff,” said West Routt Fire Chief Trevor Guire, following the vote.
Guire said the district is already bracing for a loss of about $40,000 in property tax assessments this year alone as production at Twentymile Mine declines. This is expected to get worse in the coming years as the Hayden Station closes by the end of 2028.
“We’re banking on some growth here in Hayden, and with the growth and this 3-mill increase, we’re hoping to stay ahead of this for awhile,” Guire said. “This is going to make our staffing level sustainable for sometime.”
Starting in 2022, the measure will increase funding for the fire district by $350,000 in the first year. The district’s current annual budget is about $750,000, so passage of 6A represents an increase of nearly 50%.
In May of last year a similar measure failed by just two votes — a loss the then fire chief attributed to uncertainty during the onset of the pandemic. But voters were morn confident a year and a half later, passing the measure by 15 votes.
This in the first increase in funding for the district since 2018 when voters approved a 2-mill increase.
In May of 2020, voters allowed the district to make revenue adjustments to counter the affects of Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment, which limits the amount of property taxes that can be collected from residential property.
The owner of a house in West Routt worth $100,000 will pay $21.45 more per year in property taxes with the passage of 6A, and the owner of commercial property worth $100,000 will pay about $87 more in property taxes annually.
Guire said the money will help the fire district address “failing infrastructure” such as the 40-year old firehouse in need of repair and a fire engine in its fleet even older. The funding will also help retain and hire more emergency medical technicians, of which the district was down to just one.
The increased funding will also help firefighters respond faster and reduce stress on Guire and his assistant chief.
“If we have one truck have a major mechanical issue, we just don’t have any financial breathing room,” Guire said. “This is going to give us room for maintenance and repair and all the things that we can’t get to.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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