From the Street

Up until now the ECT hasn’t taken a position on the much more difficult Ballot question – issue 5A.

5A is the request by the (Eagle River Protection District) for more or your Property Tax money.

5A directly involves Governments #1 job – Public Safety.  Just one of the difficulties of deciding about funding Fire Protection is that it is very much like buying Insurance.  How much is enough?  How much can we (as a community) afford?

What remains unexplained today by the proponents of the Tax Increase known as 5A – is why our ERFP District “has to have” a property tax increase – while ALL THE OTHER County Fire Districts ARE NOT asking for one…

You ask…which Fire Districts (also dependent on Property Taxes) are NOT asking for a Property Tax Increase?  Vail, Eagle, Gypsum, our County Airport and as far as the ECT knows neither is Basalt.  Our friends currently running our Ambulance District(s) are not asking for a Property Tax Increase either.  Does this seem quite right to you Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer?

(photo – left ERFPD Chief Charlie Moore – right, his peer from the Eagle County Ambulance District – General Manager Fred Morrison)

Why did long time ERFP District Chief Charlie Moore announce he was leaving the department two weeks before the November 1st election?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to announce after the election?

What we know:  The ERFPD has ~$3 Million in cash reserves – that could be used to provide the same level of fire protection we have today in the District.  Deficit financing as we all know is not a sustainable business model.  We also know that an emergency “mutual aid” fire protection pact is in place that allows each Fire District to reasonably assist the other Fire District(s) as men and fire engines allow.

FACT IS:  There is no such thing as a “temporary” property tax increase.  Every single Tax Authority can at ANYTIME ask for an additional Tax Increase depending on what they want.  Our elected School Board and their 3 bond issues over 10 years ($230 Million total) is proof enough of this.

Alarm Bells went off at the ECT when the ECT saw the letter from the head of our local firefighters union come out and support this Property Tax Increase to his organizations direct benefit.  Look no further than the formerly financially viable State of California – to see what Public Sector Unions (salaries/benefits/pensions) have done to that State.  Ditto for concerns about Public Sector Teacher Unions as well.

One more point:  After checking with Eagle County’s Finance Office this past week the ECT learned that Eagle County has ~$14 Million unspent cash reserve in the County’s Open Space fund.  Anybody want to talk about what our community “needs” vs. what some in our community “want”?  The ECT does, the Fishwrap folks obviously don’t!  More on this later.

One answer is clear, something is broken in Eagle County.  Clearly too much Property Tax money allocated for what we “want” not enough for the public safety items we “need”.

As to the answer – whether to pay for this public safety related Property Tax Increase or not – the ECT leaves it up to our Reader.  How much Fire Protection is enough?  For Eagle County families facing their homes Foreclosure after Job Loss – the answer is certainly clear.

11 responses

  1. The Ambulance District does charge for their services. If you get in their Ambulance and get a ride to VVMC, you WILL get a bill. They are both funded by the Tax Payers, and end users.

  2. When you look at the budgets for the ERFPD versus all the others I believe Chief Moore has done an excellent job. The number of full time fire fighters, the number of manned stations, the territory covered. Run the numbers and make the comparrison, no wonder fire fighters in Gypsum, Vail, and Eagle don’t need a tax increase. Keeping a critical eye on where tax payer dollars are spent is always a good idea, however I also think reporting accurate information is important, especially when the story line is as important as this one.

    • Is this the Ramon Montoya – who is the Mayor of Red Cliff?
      Last time the ECT checked….Mayor Montoya the Town of Red Cliff was benifiting from “extra” Tax Dollars from both the Fire District and the Water District.
      Extra Tax Dollars?…as in “we Red Cliff citizens get more money back – than we pay in Property Tax Dollars”.
      Isn’t that correct Mr. Mayor?
      So if the Eagle County Taxpayer keeps handing over more Property Tax Dollars – your town of Red Cliff stands to benefit (water/fire) even more, right Mr. Mayor?

  3. Not to confuse theECt with the facts, the Eagle Valley Fire Protection District, operates on a mill levy that is almost half of Eagle’s and about 1/3 less than the three fire districts in Summit County. The $3,000,000 in reserves are dedicated to having cash available to pay for outside services such as slurry and water drops when we have a major fire in one or more of the many bettle kill areas in the District. The service providers don’t fly if they have to wait until the next election to get paid. If you would look at all of the numbers you will find that Charlie Moore and his fire fighters have done a great job with limited funds. Punishing the District for the excesses of others and compromising our safety is really stupid. The guilt by association with the ambie district is also really stupid. Victimizing the EVFPD in order to advance your views on the open space tax also shows a lack of judgement.

    • ECT understands that (example: Eagle) doesn’t have a (Beaver Creek, Strawberry Park, Bachelor Gulch, Arrowhead, nor Cordillera) in their district. So without all that (formerly?) high priced Real Estate (Eagle) needs a higher mill levy, right?

      We can (agree?) that Eagle Ranch real estate now (~50%) of peak value (was/is) Eagle’s highest priced real-estate neighborhood…yet John-John’s limited vision has somehow figured a way to continue to provide Fire Service with obviouysly shrinking revenue…

      Don’t understand your comment “guilt by association” – it’s disjointed and does not flow with your (point?)

      Yes, we can (agree?) our Community needs a discussion about what our Property Taxes are being used for.
      Dicussion centered on wants vs. need. We can (agree?) that Public Safety/Fire Protection is a “need” vs. open space is a “want”.
      For the record – it was the ECT folks standing in front of the County Commissioners request that the REPEAL of the open space tax be on this November’s ballot. To a man the BoCC refused, to do that – they obviously knew it would be REPEALED!

      Something is WRONG when we Taxpayers have (~$14 Million in an open space fund) at the same time our Community is being warned about not enough money to pay for (adequate?) Fire Protection. The ECT’s judgement is in excellent shape. That why the ECT brought the question forward in the first place.

      OBTW Chuck – ECT Readership passed the 100,000 reader (web page hit) this past Monday. Jan-October. ECT’s goal was to reach that readership mark by December 2011.
      ECT two months ahead of our Goal.
      Thanks again for reading Chuck!

  4. There is also more information that the taxpayers need to know. Compare the salaries and benefits of firefighters in Eagle County to those on the front range. We are years behind when compared. Almost 1/3 of Eagle River’s firefighters live in Denver due to the high cost of housing.

    Yes, they run fewer calls, but they are still expected to garner the same positive outcome for the people they protect as much the firefighters on the front range do. If you would rather your insurance replace your belongings, vote NO. If you are OK with increased response times, then vote NO.

    I think it is also fair to let your readers know that aside from Vail Fire and Rescue, who receive most of their funding through sales tax, Eagle River, by far, has the lowest tax rate in Eagle County compared to the other departments in Eagle County as well as the front range.

    Lastly, ECT, I beg of you to ask Beaver Creek HOA why they feel it is OK for them to pay a lower rate than the rest of us because they refuse to join the District. Beaver Creek citizens pay about half of what they should be paying if they were members of the fire district. Currently, they receive services through a 10-year contract. I wonder if everybody’s taxes could be adjusted downward if they paid their fair share.

    • Not so fast Todd…

      ECT looked into that issue of Fire Protection in Beaver Creek….
      ECT is not, nor claims to be a Fire Protection (expert?)
      Here’s what the ECT learned looking into that.

      The Beaver Creek homeowners (decided for themselves) how much fire protection staffing they wanted…BC pays the ERFPD (x) dollars for that level of 7x24x365 service.

      The ECT was told – that the ERFPD decided what BC is paying for is NOT ENOUGH 7x24x365 Firefighter Staffing for BC Fire Safety. So? So the ERFPD is paying the difference to a level (ECT thinks it’s 4 instead of just 2 full time firefighters at the BC Firestation) of Fire Protection in Beaver Creek that the leadership team at ERFPD has decided is adequate.

      ECT doesn’t claim to know what is (adequate?) fire protection for Beaver Creek.
      ECT guesses more Firefighters are needed in the Winter Tourist season when more folks are there….
      ECT does know about the former relationship (history) with Chief Charlie Moore and the decision makers in Beaver Creek. Including the old lawsuit….

      Perhaps now with new Chief Karl Bauer in charge there is a better chance of an improved relationship with the BC folks…

      Difficult question: How much Fire Protection is enough?

  5. Taxpayers only decide that there is enough fire/EMS protection when their fire is put out or their loved one is saved. “How much protection is enough” is very subjective to each tax payer. Because of this, the fire service must decide for the taxpayer how much is enough based not on what HAS happened but what COULD happen.

    One more note. Yes, I am a member of ERFPD and also a member of the union. Please know that while the almost all of the firefighters here are members of the union and pay dues to the International Association of Fire Fighters and also to the Colorado Professional Firefighters, we do not have a formal relationship with the District. There is no contract or MOU. We are very luck to have a good working relationship with the Fire Board and Administration all without a contract.

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