Glacier View FD asks residents for a property-tax increase

Residents of the Glacier View Fire Protection District will be asked in May for a property-tax increase to support firefighting and emergency medical services.

This year, the 60-square-mile district will increase in size with the addition of territory from the 17,000 block to the 19,000 block of Larimer County Road 74E, which includes the Whispering Pines subdivision.

Previously, Whispering Pines was protected by the Glacier View Fire Department, but did not pay taxes to the district. There will be 43 parcel numbers included when the district’s western boundary is redrawn, including Magic Sky and the Sundance Trail Ranch. Residents of these areas have been positive about being included in the district, saying paying taxes will give them a voice in the governing body.

The election seeks to increase the mill levy for the entire district to 23.5 mills from 7, increasing the current $122,980 annual budget by about $250,000. The mill levy would increase property taxes on a $250,000 home by about $300 per year or $25 per month.

The district has collected taxes at the same rate since it was formed in 1992. The High Park Fire and the housing bubble contributed to a 26-percent drop in tax revenue, even as the department’s call load has increased more than 25 percent.

Glacier View’s service area includes Glacier View Meadows, Green Mountain, Drake, Red Feather Highlands, North Rim, Hewlett Gulch, Star View, Red Tail and Deer Meadows.

The election is scheduled for May 6 and the polling place is at the Glacier View Fire Department, Gate 8 on 74E.

Glacier View FD’s top challenges are equipment upkeep and replacement, firefighter and EMS staffing and the cost of administering services to the district. After the High Park Fire, the department received nearly $140,000 in donations and a grant from state Division of Local Affairs amounting to $149,000 and a loan of $80,000 in government capital. The money helped Glacier View FD upgrade its fleet of trucks from an average age of 28 years to the current level of 3-years old.

The fire department is grateful for the cash infusion, but now that same level service must be maintained. Approximately $50,000 per year is needed for replacement of fire trucks and ambulances on a 15-year schedule. Another large part of the need for an increase in budget is the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The department plans to offer a pay-per-call system where the volunteers get a stipend of so many dollars per call. Currently the volunteers not only risk life and limb when fighting actual fires, they put in many hours of training time and also lose money when called away from work. The stipend paid would be between $30 and $50 and if the volunteer participates in 50 calls within a year, that figure would offer some incentive to volunteer and to stay.

If the mill-levy increase passes, the Glacier View FD will be able to hire a full-time fire chief and a couple of division chiefs to handle department interaction, paperwork and training. This would ensure better daytime responses for fire calls and availability of EMTs.

At the current level of available funds the question is: Does the fire department maintain the current level of services or does it cut back? And what would it cut? Ambulances cost $150,000 each and are impossible to buy on the current budget of $122,980 per year.

Even on a budget set in the late 1980s, the Glacier View VFD was a strong department when the High Park Fire hit. The department had a plan in place and with the help of federal firefighters to execute, it worked. While 69 homes and 10,000 acres were lost 100s more were saved during the 10 days of preparation and eight-hour firefight. The department had 20 firefighters and 12 pieces of equipment on the fire line.

The department has a 25-year record of 90 percent of structures saved in structure fires and the average response time on any call is 9-12 minutes.

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