Letter: Rangely Rural Fire requesting mill levy increase

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Dear Editor:

You may have seen the flyer that went out to each household regarding the proposed mill levy increase. It is the legal notice we are required to provide to all property owners and registered voters. It is worded the way it will appear on the Special District’s ballot for the May 5, 2020, election. We were not allowed to put anything else on this notice.

I am writing to give a better explanation on why the Rangely Fire District is seeking a mill levy increase, what it will cover, and what it will cost taxpayers. We planned on handing out flyers at the Health Fair and various other events, but as you are aware, those events were cancelled. Therefore, we had no way of getting this information out to the public and answering questions. We have been contacted by many individuals asking questions and here are some of the answers:

The cost to taxpayers is as follows:

$200,000 home value

  • Current property tax to homeowner is $12.59 per year
  • Proposed property tax to homeowner is $28.80 per year

$500,000 Business Value

  • Current property tax to business owner is $126.73 per year
  • Proposed property tax to business owner is $290.00 per year

The reason it appears that we are asking for such a large additional amount each year is because we did a 15-year equipment replacement and operating plan and we do not want to have to come back to the public in a couple of years to ask again. According to our 15-year plan, if the increase is approved, we would be OK into the future and could replace equipment and operate the Fire Department. In 2020 we will get about $250,000 in tax revenue and it is impossible to operate and buy new equipment with that amount. We have been using our fund balance to offset the tax revenue for the past four years.

The reason the actual historical and current estimated fiscal year spending went up from 2019 and is anticipated for 2020, is because we received a partial grant to purchase a truck. We have to pay for the truck and then request a partial reimbursement on it after we have paid in full.  The truck is approximately $125,000.  This is the reason for the increase in expenditures for 2020.  We have other vehicles and equipment that have to be replaced and this is the biggest part of what we are asking the increase for. We put a 15-year plan together for equipment replacement.  Some personal protection gear has to be replaced every 10 years. We are asking for an increase so we can stay on the replacement plan and keep our firefighters safe.

At some point in the future, we anticipate having to update or build on to the current Fire Hall. Our current Fire Hall is not ADA compliant and any work to it would require that we become ADA compliant. We are out of room when it comes to storing our equipment and we need to stay compliant with the NFPA regulations.

In addition to replacing equipment, the mill levy increase will help to pay for training each year which consists of approximately 1,200 manhours per year. Some of the training that you might not be aware of is as follows: swift water rescue, scuba diving, CPR, fire behavior, hazmat, school bus evacuation, wildland fire, pipeline awareness, self-contained breathing apparatus, school mock accident, fire ground survival, etc.  

 Our firefighters put in over 1,000 manhours per year for fire runs. We serve 1,000 square miles, protecting homes, ranches, schools, businesses, gas/oil fields, Hwy. 64, Hwy. 139, and Hwy. 40. We assist on medical runs, vehicle accidents, rescues, body recoveries, missing hunters, ATV accidents, search and rescue, various community service, and events.

We realize this is not the best time because of people being home from work and the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have put off asking the voters for this increase for many years because other entities were needing increases and we did not want to overwhelm the voters. It has been 23 years since the last increase. At that time, it went from .50 Mills to .874 mills. We feel we have been good stewards with the tax dollars we have received. We have bought two new fire trucks by donations, grants and financing and we didn’t ask the public for help. These two trucks that we bought in 2013 helped bring lower the average homeowners insurance premium because our ISO rating improved.

We have decided to go to the voters because we thought no one else was seeking funds at this time. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic came into play, we were already so far into this that we had to continue forward with the ballot question. We know times are difficult right now and would appreciate your consideration on this matter. 

Rangely Rural Fire Protection District

Board of Directors

Tim Webber, Chairman

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