Mill Levy FAQ
I want to talk to someone.
You can create a contact request or phone Iain Irwin-Powell, the board chair, 719-581-9304.
Doesn't the County have a similar request on the ballot?
Yes. They had not communicated that to us and so far we have very few details about what their plan entails. When they publish their ballot language we might get a better idea. There is a meeting on August 2nd which we will have a prescence at. Depending on their plan we may alter our request.
Why do you need new equipment? It looks fine to me when I see it in the parade.
All of our frontline fire equipment is over 20 years old. Most of it cannot be maintained without specialist mechanics. As equipment ages, we are increasingly finding it hard to locate replacement parts. Remember that during any major maintenance or repair, the vehicle is out of service and unavailable for repsonse.
Why now with the economy and inflation?
There is never a suitable time to ask for an increase. The department and its people are also affected by the same economic environment. We need a plan to replace our equipment over the next 20 years. Kicking this can down the road will just make it more expensive in the end.
Why don't you buy used equipment?
It is a false economy and robs the department of both time and expense. Used equipment generally comes on the market after 20 years and also comes with problems. Every heavy vehicle that NFPD has bought used from elsewhere has cost us a lot of time and money in repairs and upkeep. Some of these, we have decided to use 'as-is' which compromises its effectiveness and safety for our responders.
Why don't you apply for grants?
We do, but grants are not guaranteed to all applicants. They are often not consistent nor are they reoccurring sources of funding, making it hard to depend on for infrastructure and large vehicle investment. Vehicle grants, for example, usually require a 50% match. Put simply, there is no way that we can fund that now or in the future.
Why don't you have less equipment?
We have considered this in the long term, but it does not resolve our short and near term needs. Less equipment would most likely hit our ISO rating which affects everyone in our district’s ability to get insurance for their property.
3 mills is a lot, can you do it for less?
The short answer is no. There is more to our income than the mill levy. The state sets the taxation rate, which affects the amount we can collect in taxes. One of the reasons that we want to spread the increase over 3 years is that it gives us time to assess what the state will do next and also start a staggered replacement scheme.
But property values have gone up so much, how come you need more income?
There are a couple of issues at work here. Although property values rise, the way that property taxes are calculated means that our income can stagnate. The department’s employees live in Colorado, so they feel the same price pinching that we all do.
You say an engine costs nearly $900,000, but the mill levy initially only brings in about $74,000 per year. Does that not mean that it takes 14 years before you replace an engine?
As with many expensive pieces of equipment, the district must lease equipment over a specific period of time, typically 15 years. That amount covers the lease payment. At 20 years we can afford to replace that equipment because we have a vehicle replacement plan in place. Doing it this way, we can immediately begin to replace older vehicles.
Why can't you just cut costs to fund this?
The board has discussed this, but the only way we can cut costs enough would be to terminate staff positions, putting undue burden on current staffing efforts to maintain a high level of service.
I don't understand why this is suddenly a problem ?
It is not and we are not in a unique position. Many fire departments nationally are under-funded, even though a majority are partially or fully volunteer.
How much will this cost me?
It depends on a number of things, specifically the valuation that the county places on your property. We placed a quick calculator here that tries to explain the amounts.
What are you doing to reduce costs?
We have a few initiatives that we are working on.
· We are starting our own emergency medical technician (EMT) school. It costs us about $3000 to train an EMT. We hope to see cost savings but also, as the course matures, offer it to external departments or individuals to create a revenue source.
· We are discussing with our neighbors a cost saving measure for mechanical repairs. By spreading the costs we all hope to save some money.
· Part of the vehicle plan is to provide the ability to send crews and equipment out on fire deployments without reducing our response abilities. This can provide income for the department and also a local area employment opportunty.
· We have reduced our vehicle fleet, removing vehicles that were old or expensive to maintain, but there is a limit to how many vehicles we can do that with.
· We have started the Nederland Fire Auxiliary. Their primary role is to suport firefighters but they will also be on the look out for funding opportunities.
Why don’t you try all of these ideas before coming to the taxpayer?
Things are critical. It takes a long time to set up these initiatives and our need is immediate.