The future of firefighting

Fire department seeks to convince voters to pass mill levy

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After attending a presentation by the Craig Fire Department, some residents don't think a mill levy increase can be fairly debated in time for the May election.

Nine residents attended a presentation at the fire station Thursday night to hear about ae proposed 2.4 mill levy tax increase that fire department officials say will be needed over the next 15 years. The boost will bring the total mill levy to 4.397.

Saed Tayyara had questions answered, but still has more questions to be researched.

"I need more questions answered before I declare a position," Tayyara said.

"I still have some questions I will be talking to Tom and Roy to get those answers, but I will still need time to study and evaluate what I learn. I don't think there's enough time for that for the election in May.

"I feel like there would be more input in the November election."

Don Jones, a Craig city councilor, likewise thinks the May 7 election is too close for the Craig Rural Fire District to make its case.

"I don't think there's been near enough publicity on the needs for the increase," Jones said. "Whether we need a training center or not, what the costs are, what the benefits to Craig are, where the money now goes for training, what the trucks will cost those questions need to be answered for the public. I don't think that's possible before the May election.

"This is important, but I don't think there's enough time to sell it to the public."

Craig Fire Chief Roy Mason is confident the issue can be properly discussed in the community, and that the community will see the importance of passing the increase.

"We brought in a consultant who has worked with other fire departments on (mill levy increases) and he set a timetable for this process," he said. "We're on schedule with that timetable."

Mason said the next steps would be flyers and town meetings, which will begin in about two weeks.

The issue on the ballot for the May 7 special district election is an increase of $550,000 to the Craig Rural Fire District budget. According to Mason, Craig Fire/Rescue faces two major problems when looking at its next 15 years of existence: Revenues are decreasing, and operation costs are projected to dramatically increase.

The Craig Rural Fire District now has a budget of $420,000 based on a mill levy of 1.997. As property values fluctuate, especially the recent devaluation of the power plant, the fire district loses money.

Over the next 15 years, several improvements will need to be made, including replacing trucks and a fire engine and gradual additions of full-time firefighters, Mason said.

The increase of 2.4 mills would provide $12.3 million over 15 years for these changes while also providing $1.5 million to allow the fire district to create a comprehensive training station.The proposed increase would cost the average household $2.50 a month, Mason said.

The 2.4 mills would not fluctuate as the 1.997 mills the fire district receives do now. The additional $550,000 would stay constant as property values fluctuate, so would the tax load on each taxpayer. The way the original 1.997 mills fluctuate the total amount received by the fire district changing, not the tax load would continue.

Even with the increase, Craig's mill levy level would still be among the lowest in the state, Mason said.

Without this increase, the district projects a debt of more than $6.4 million from the cost of operations alone at the end of 15 years.

"This mill levy increase will allow us to continue to provide services to Craig, to provide for the estimated 2 percent growth the community we will see each year," Mason said. "We will be able to properly maintain and replace equipment, maintain operations at the present level of service, and build a training center."

Anyone with questions on or who would like information about the mill levy issue should contact Roy Mason at the Craig Rural Fire District Station at 419 Yampa Ave, 824-5914.

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