GRAND JUNCTION, CO - The Clifton Fire Protection District is seeking a mill levy increase, which will be on Novembers ballot but community members say they are not for a tax increase.
The station says the mill levy will help with the cost of service which has been steadily increasing. "With the cost of doing service going up we just don't have the funding to keep providing the same level of service and replace all the equipment and apparatus that are coming up for replacement," said Charles K. Balke, Fire Chief, Clifton Fire Protection District.
But, a Clifton resident is not for the mill levy. "I feel any tax increase is not good at this time because here in Mesa County we are still in a recession. Last time I heard we still have a 6.8% unemployment rate," said Larry Perez, Clifton resident.
The mill levy would increase property taxes by $10.40 a month for Clifton residents and it would generate an estimated $410,347.
The tax increase would help give staff a proper pay says Balke, "Our younger individuals who are trying to break into the profession we just cant keep them here because of what we pay. And, the fact that we don't have the funding to add additional staffing even though our call volume is telling us we really need to be adding additional full time staff."
The fire chief says the mill levy would not allow to add more full time staff, they would keep their current staff and bump up salaries to remain competitive among other stations.
The last time the department had a mill levy increase was in 2008 and since then it now responds to double the amount of calls and the fire chief says it is wearing out their equipment, "Our brush truck is 30 years old. Most of our engines are right around 20 years old. Our ambulances are 10 to 15 years old, they have surpassed their usefulness and life expectancy. So now the maintenance cost to keep them up and running is significantly increasing year to year and the cost of parts if we can even find parts anymore is increasing as well."
Currently the station has 15 volunteers on board and if the mill levy does not pass they will need to rely on more. "We used to be totally a volunteer fire department and we've now had to go to a paid people. We may have to turn around and lay people off if we can get volunteers going again," said Paul Frey, President, Board of Directors Clifton Fire District.
Residents of Clifton understand the departments needs but still believe there are other ways to allocate money, "I would suggest cutting out other sources and look to find that money some place else within the department or outside the department but I wouldn't do a tax increase."
To well inform community members of how this money will exactly be used fire chief Balke says the station plans on holding an open house.