CAÑON CITY – Roughly 80-Colorado fire protection districts are asking voters for a property tax increase levy or other revenue increase this election season.
At the heart of this trend is an amendment to the state constitution which mandates decreasing tax rates, but the anticipated rate decreases could force budget cuts of around 25 percent for first responders across the state. The cuts are causing big worries for Cañon City.
Cañon City fire received a mill levy increase in 2014 and it was a tax hike for more revenue meant to last a decade or more. Fire Chief David Delvecchio says the increase four years ago is pretty much all gone and like many other fire districts across the state, they’re in trouble again.
The agencies are relying solely on property tax revenues, a tax that Coloradan’s are paying less of. Delvecchio says people’s valuations have increased about 6 percent on the average, but their actual taxes paid have decreased.
The problem lies with the Gallagher amendment, which passed back in 1982. It controls the amount of property tax collection in the state at 55 percent commercial, 45 percent residential. It also controls how much of your property is subject to tax, known as the residential assessment rate.
Right now, it’s at 7.2 percent and it’s projected to fall, despite increasing property values. Delvecchio says if we go to 6.1 percent on the residential assessment rate, it might come to the point of reducing their firefighter personnel.
That’s why canon city is asking for another mill levy increase. This time, a minimal jump to cover lost revenue with the ability to increase it to 12 mills. He says he hopes the state can find a long-term solution because when people pay less and they’re still trying to fund at least the same services, it’s just not going to happen.