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SF&EMS Statement about Property Taxes for 2024

SF&EMS Statement About Maintaining, Not Reducing, Property Taxes For 2024

Taxpayers of the Summit Fire & EMS Fire Protection District:

As you may know, Summit Fire & EMS is a special district in Colorado that provides fire protection and emergency services to the various jurisdictions in the north, east and west ends of Summit County. The organization is funded primarily through property taxes, and we have been asked by some to reduce our property-tax collection rate due to a significant increase in assessed valuation and the associated impact on homeowners.

We understand that property taxes can be a burden. We also understand our obligation to be fiscally responsibly with your tax dollars – asking for, collecting and spending. After significant deliberation, your Board of Directors and Fire District Management Team believe that reducing the property tax-collection rate would have a negative impact on our ability to continue providing the high-quality emergency services that the community has become accustomed to and rightfully deserves. The importance of Fire and EMS in any community cannot be overstated. Any reduction in resources now and into the future will dilute the level of response you receive when calling 911, looking for a wildfire inspection to create defensible space, teaching our youth the importance of fire safety, interaction with a competent inspector on life-safety issues in and around your home or place of business…the list goes on!

Over the last few years, the cost of doing business has risen significantly. With each legislative session in the recent past, we’ve seen what has become a consistent stream of proposed legislation that attempts to reduce funding for fire departments across the state. The 2024 session has Initiative 50 in the pipeline to cap property taxes at 4 percent per year. It has been made clear that our property-tax revenue, which constitutes 87 percent of our budget, will constantly be under attack from this point forward. Seeing this reality on the horizon, now is the time for the Fire District to acquire the funding to support immediate and long-term needs.

Your Fire Department consists of more than 100 fully paid members, wherein the 2024 budget has $17 million allocated to salary and benefits -- approximately 79 percent of the budget. We are in the process of building a fifth fire station in Silverthorne that will require an additional 18 first responders at a cost of $3.5 million per year in salary and benefits. We have increased the workforce and subsequent workload in our Community Risk Division to improve our services in the realm of community risk reduction and outreach to the underserved populations. We have implemented a dedicated wildland fire division to address matters of prevention, mitigation and preparedness in hopes that our efforts to work with homeowners/HOA’s will eventually offset insurance premiums. When Summit Fire & EMS fully merged with the former Summit County Ambulance Service, transport revenues declined significantly, as our primary focus is, and always has been, all-hazard emergency response and EMS transport here in the county. Our five-year capital plan shows an estimated $30 million in improvements and replacements, which includes the new fire station, replacement apparatus, and three significant remodels to existing, aging fire stations. These improvements are necessary to ensure that we can continue to provide the best possible service to our community.

It is our hope that you understand our position and the importance of maintaining our current level of funding. We are committed to providing the highest quality emergency services to our community, and we believe that reducing our property tax collection would have a negative impact on our ability to do so now and into the future.