Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Kim Glasscock
editorial@lhvc.com 

NCA welcomes Chief Beebe to board meeting

 

August 10, 2018



Mountain View Fire Rescue District Chief Dave Beebe met with Niwot Community Association (NCA) board members Aug. 1 to discuss the district’s proposal to put a mill levy increase on the November ballot. MVFR includes Niwot and some of unincorporated Gunbarrel in its service area.

“We are in fact-finding mode now, but our district’s board needs to make a decision soon so we are gathering as much input as possible,” Beebe said. The district held four public open forums, including one July 17 in Niwot, and sent out mailings and surveys to district residents to gather opinion. District officials also are meeting with community groups to discuss the proposed mill levy increase.

In addition, MVFR has posted information on its website, http://www.mvfpd.org, about the district’s current finances and the financial challenges faced by MVFR.

The district is considering placing a measure on November’s ballot asking for an increase of 4.5 mills in property tax. That would mean a cost increase of $32 per $100,000 of actual value on residential property. Non-residential property such as commercial, agricultural, industrial and mining property would see an increase of $130.50 annually per $100,000 of actual value.

Beebe said the district’s budget is being “squeezed by a growing demand for services and a shrinking revenue pool.” The district’s population has almost doubled since 2000, with much of the growth in the eastern part of the district. That population growth brings more medical emergencies, fire calls and vehicle accident calls, and costs.

“Here’s just one example – our ambulance transport fees don’t meet our costs,” Beebe said. “If our cost is billed at $1,200 then insurance will pay about $800. Medicaid will pay only $150. So we don’t cover our costs at all.”

NCA members asked if the district receives budget funding from the cities and counties it serves. “We do not receive city or county funding, or sales tax or income tax funds,” Beebe said. “We are reliant on property tax funding.” Approximately 87 percent of MVFR’s revenues come from property taxes.

Beebe emphasized that the Gallagher Amendment, passed in 1982, has had a “huge impact” on the district’s finances. The Gallagher Amendment requires that residential property owners pay no more than 45 percent of the state’s total property tax collection, with commercial, agricultural and other property owners picking up the rest. The amendment has steadily reduced residential assessment rates from 21 percent of a home’s value to 7.2 percent today, and state officials expect that rate to fall again in 2019. So the residential growth MVFR is experiencing isn’t bringing in much revenue.

Adding to the budget squeeze, Beebe said, is the volatility of revenue from oil extraction and the “drying up” of most grants for equipment and services.

Beebe said the 185 square-mile district uses professional staff and paramedics instead of contracting out. “We are asked why we don’t use a for-profit ambulance service such as AMR,” he said. “We don’t feel they provide enough coverage for our residents. Those services must remain profitable, so they have to take ‘transfer’ calls like taking someone home from the hospital. That ambulance is then in use when an emergency call comes in, and response times suffer.”

Volunteer firefighters also are not an option because MVFR requires firefighters to be trained as medical responders, and be able to handle hazardous materials situations and technical rescues. “Our people have over 400 hours of specialized training,” Beebe said.

MVFR revenues currently just keep pace with expenditures, which doesn’t include any funds for capital improvements, Beebe said. The proposed additional revenues would allow the district to build and staff three new stations to serve its growing population – southwest Erie in 2020, unincorporated Weld County to serve Erie and Dacono in 2022, and Mead in 2027. “These stations are proposed to keep response times low,” Beebe said.

In addition, the district would be able to replace 25-to-30-year-old tender trucks, brush trucks and an aerial ladder truck, repair and upgrade existing fire stations, purchase communication equipment and replace outdated mobile data terminals in engines, and replace self-contained breathing apparatus that are at the end of their service life and no longer certified.

“To replace the breathing apparatus will cost about $1 million,” Beebe said.

While Niwot is not getting a new fire station, it will benefit from the proposed station in Mead which will provide a closer backup for the Niwot area if needed. The new equipment and communications systems also will benefit the Niwot area. “We want to provide the best possible service to the residents we serve,” Beebe said.

Beebe said the MVFR District Board plans to make the decision on placing the mill levy on November’s ballot this month.

Grant requests

The NCA took another look at its proposed guidelines for awarding grants to community groups. NCA board members suggested that a grant request form be developed, and agreed to discuss the proposed guidelines again at the September meeting.

National Night Out

NCA members reported that the final arrangements for the Aug. 7 National Night Out were in place. The NCA partners with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department to host the event. NCA Events Chair Kim Hawksworth reported that the Niwot Market is donating the pasta salad for the event, and Niwot Real Estate is providing bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

 

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