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Upper Pine fire chief asks voters to approve Ballot Issue 7A

District relies on property tax to maintain level of service
Upper Pine River Fire Protection District Fire Chief Bruce Evans wants voters to understand the importance of Ballot Issue 7A. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Ballot issue 7A asks voters to maintain the same rate of property tax for the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District it has levied since 2013, and Fire Chief Bruce Evans wants residents to understand why it is so important.

“In 2013, we went to the public to increase the mill levy,” he said. “The fire district wasn’t going to make it with the current amount of tax money from the mill levy’s tax fund.”

Evans explained that a “sunset clause” was added to the mill levy’s increase at the time, meaning the property tax increase would automatically be terminated after a fixed period unless it is extended.

“It’s an accountability piece to the public,” Evans said. “If you’re doing a bad job, the tax runs out. If you’re doing a good job, voters can reward you with keeping the tax increase.”

He said his department has done a good job over the years and earned the right to keep the tax rate at $5.95.

“We think we’ve done a good job for the public,” Evans said. “We’ve been fiscally conservative in our spending. We won Ambulance Service of the Year last year. We’re one of only two rural ambulance offices (in Colorado) besides Red White and Blue Fire Protection District (in Breckenridge) that’s accredited. We like to brag that we have the same quality EMS service you would get in Vail or Aspen.”

Evans points to another accomplishment for the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District: “We have a 100% cardiac save rate,” he said. “That’s unheard of for a rural fire district. That might only be three people, but that’s three people that went home to their families.”

He also emphasizes the community service the fire protection district provides.

“We run an EMT-training program,” he said. “We usually have about eight or nine people, but we just got a new grant that will help us train way more people. It’s harder to recruit firefighters up here, so keeping that property tax will help us pay them a livable wage.”

Evans understands why voters might not want to vote to maintain the current property tax.

“A lot of people have fallen on tough times,” he said. “They’re dealing with inflation and the increase in fuel costs. It’s very understandable why they wouldn’t vote for it.”

But he wants to clarify that residents will not be voting on a new tax or a tax increase.

“It’s the same property tax rate it’s been since 2013,” he said. “We’re just getting rid of the sunset clause, so we can keep the rate where it is.”

Evans hopes the efforts of Upper Pine River Fire Protection District over the last few years will be enough to sway residents to vote for 7A.

“I just really hope we’ve demonstrated that we’re a valuable service to the community,” he said.


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