Montrose Fire Protection District is caught in the middle.

On one side: Gallagher Amendment to The Colorado constitution, under which residential property taxes cannot exceed 45 percent of total property tax valuations, and under which the residential assessment rate fluctuates. Since Gallagher was implemented in 1983, the latter rate has plummeted to 7.2 percent, and in 2019, it’s again dipping, to 6.1 percent.

On the other side: The fire district’s growing calls for fire and medical services — calls it can currently meet, because it is able to operate two substations, brought to us after a 2006 mill levy increase to 8.813.

The district did not pick the current mill levy willy-nilly. It carefully estimated, using a 30-year projection, and determined net assessed values would increase by 5 percent. However, things took a hit during the last recession and now, even though the district’s net assessed values rose 3.55 percent, that falls short of the 5-percent projections.

In hopes of getting out from between the proverbial “rock and hard place,” the fire district is asking, via ballot measure 7 A, for an increase of 0.429 mills, to offset the upcoming revenue loss when the residential assessment rate hits 6.1 percent.

This is a modest ask and is, as the district puts it, not the “tax increase” that the precise ballot language might make it seem.

The measure also would allow district revenues to be based on increases or decreases of residential assessed value within the fire district, rather than on such fluctuations statewide.

To put it in plain English, 7A amounts to paying $3.09 per $100,000 of residential property value, and — for less than the price of a coffee drink — allows us to keep services that are critical to public safety.

Without 7A, the district’s fire marshal position goes away, affecting inspection capabilities and possibly delaying construction projects. The economic hit of that by far exceeds $3.09.

Additionally, with fewer substations to serve the area, insurance rates in the area could increase, because different classifications of fire risk would apply. That increase, too, is likely to be far more than 3 bucks and some change.

Further, if 7A does not pass, the fire district will likely close one of its substations. This will decrease critical response times.

Although firefighters and paramedics will still respond, and will still do their outstanding, selfless work to save your home or your life, seconds count in emergencies.

Why take the gamble? Vote yes on 7A.

The Montrose Daily Press Editorial Board is comprised of Publisher Tonya Maddox, Managing Editor Justin Tubbs, Senior Writer Katharhynn Heidelberg and News Editor Monica Garcia.

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