This November, residents who live within the Arvada Fire Protection District — portions of Arvada and Wheat Ridge as well as areas of unincorporated Jefferson County — will vote whether or not to …
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This November, residents who live within the Arvada Fire Protection District — portions of Arvada and Wheat Ridge as well as areas of unincorporated Jefferson County — will vote whether or not to give the fire district the ability to adjust their current mill levy, down or up, to compensate for a change in the residential assessment rate (RAR).
Due to the steady increase in residential property values across the state, since 1982 the RAR has been reduced from 21 percent to 7.96 percent. Then, in 2017, the Colorado Legislature further reduced the RAR to 7.2 percent, an approximately 9 percent decrease. Because the largest portion of the Fire District’s actual property value — approximately 88 percent — comes from residential property, the Fire District lost $1.75 million as a result of the RAR reduction.
Currently, the residential assessment rate (RAR) is set at 7.2 percent, which means that for every $100,000 in assessed property, the fire protection district gets $106 in property tax revenue.
Preliminary projections indicate the Colorado Legislature will further reduce the RAR to 6.11 percent in 2019. If the residential assessment rate drops to 6.11% as it stands, the district will receive $90 for every $100,000 in actual property value.
What the Arvada Fire Protection District is seeking to do is to stabilize the revenue stream so that no matter what the residential assessment rate is, the district will continue to get the same funding each year. This means is the RAR goes down, the mill levy will go up and if the RAR goes up, the mill levy will go down.
“We’re asking voters to stabilize the districts revenue from property taxes,” said Mike Piper, deputy chief for the Arvada Fire Protection District. “We just want to keep what you’re currently paying, we’re not asking for more money.”
The Arvada Fire Protection District is organized as a special district, meaning it is a stand-alone government entity and independent taxing district — similar to a school district. It is not part of any city government and do not receive funding from either the city of Arvada or the city of Wheat Ridge, rather the district is funded primarily through property taxes collected within the fire district.
Piper said that it is important to keep revenue streams the same in order to maintain the level of service it is currently providing. If the RAR goes down, Piper said the fire district is set to loose another $3 million in funding. Because of this projection, the Arvada Fire Protection Board has indefinitely postponed the construction and staffing of a new fire station at Indiana Street and Candellas Parkway.
According to the district, over the past five years 9-1-1 call volume has increased 18 percent.
“When call volume increases, the demand for services increases, but we don’t have the means to meet that with more services,” Piper said. “If we don’t have the Candellas station, that’s going to adversely affect response times in the North West corner.”
But it’s not just about that new station, Piper said. The decline in funding also affects the districts ability to replace firetrucks and take advantage of advancements in bunker gear and breathing apparatuses.
Although the number of homes in Arvada is growing, thus bringing in additional dollars for the district, Piper said it does not offset the expense to protect those homes.
In a letter sent to all registered voters residing within the district, Arvada Fire Chief Jon Greer wrote: “Allowing cuts to our fire department could endanger emergency response times and could result in a reduction in training for life-saving medical and other emergency response techniques that ensures firefighter and citizen safety.”
The last time the district asked the voters for an increase in revenue was in 2010.
Video by: Arvada Fire Protection District
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