West Metro

West Metro asks for 3 mill levy

First request in 8 years


The West Metro Fire Protection District will ask voters to approve a property-tax increase of 3 mills for the first time in eight years.

The issue will be on ballots in a special-district mail-in ballot on May 6, which will be available to all registered voters and property owners within the fire district eligible to vote in the state.

“We’re asking voters for this so we can maintain the high level of service we offer,” Fire Chief Don Lombardi said. “We have made significant cuts since 2009, reducing expenditures by 13.8 percent.”

According to information provided by the district, if approved, “the measure would raise taxes around $2 per month for every $100,000 of actual property value and generate approximately $8.6 million annually for the fire department — restoring property tax funding to levels before Jefferson and Douglas Counties’ assessed values fell and allowing the District to chart a financially secure course for future services to the constituents.”

Lombardi said that a driving force behind the measure is the fact that property taxes, which is the district’s main source of income, has been declining and not rebounding the way the district hoped. Since 2009, property tax has declined by 4.81 percent, and the district responded by creating new plans for keeping costs down.

“Firefighters have taken a 3 percent pay cut, and all civilian support staff salaries have been frozen for the past four years,” he said. “We planned to see some rebound in the property values, and we just haven’t seen it.”

To keep offer the service residents have come to expect, the district has dipped into its general funds reserve to the tune of $4.5 million since 2008. According to information from the district, the mill levy “would allow the District to establish the general fund balance to previous levels to restore financial sustainability within the general fund. Additionally, a 3 mill increase will allow the District to reestablish appropriate funding to budgets, establish a current pay schedule for both firefighters and civilian support staff, begin to fund selected long-term capital needs, and establish resiliency for long-term future economic change.”

Lombardi said the district has proved it is a good steward of the public’s funds, citing its April 2013 refinancing of $22,970,000 of District General Obligation debt, as well as bringing the interest cost down from 5.17 percent to 2.33 percent. The lower rates means taxpayers will pay significantly less on the debt.

Firefighters are also trained as paramedics, which means the district doesn’t have to spend money by calling two separate units to an emergency.

“The national accreditation we’ve received as a district shows that we are providing top service to residents,” Lombardi said. “We understand that the economy is tough for everyone, but the mill will helps us get back to where we need. If we didn’t need this, we wouldn’t ask for it.”

Firefighters will be out in the community explaining the levy, and giving a balanced view on the issue in the coming months, Lombardi said.

“It’s really going to come down to services and the level our residents expect,” he said. “We need to get back to a stable base to provide services.”


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I can appreciate the job that emergency personnel do. It's hard work, rewarding work, certainly well paid, too. The district appears top-heavy, and further cuts to the administrative costs would be a nice direction. Further, as property taxes are based on trailing numbers, I'm certain without checking the calculator that 2012-13 home sales prices were extraordinary for Jeffco. That equates to the revenues they're in need of - and then some with more diligent management. It seems counterproductive really. Couldn't they have put this special election money, consulting fees, and media campaign to a more worthy cause within the department.

Lastly, here's how it's done. A link to South Metro Fire's budget, all the leadership contacts, and they even spell out some cost-saving measures.


Friday, April 11, 2014 | Report this

I agree with Jeffy44 time to tighten the belt and look for other ways to meet your budget. Tabor Amendment limits growth to 7%/yr. based on property value. With our property value on the rise once again, that means an automatic budget increase. Maybe WM should not have spent that $10,000 on new helmets just to look like NYFD!!! Maybe the crews don't need 2 sets of bunker gear. Other area departments make it on one per unit with spares when they are in for service. And besides our taxes paying for all the training, equipment, salaries, facilities why do we have to pay for ambulance service extra. What is the District doing with the income for services supplied to smaller Districts? The wording in this request allows the department to raise taxes however they choose. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN I'M SORRY BUT NO WAY.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this