Security Fire Department Seeks Additional Tax Money | New

Faced with an expanding coverage area and aging equipment, the Security Fire Protection District is calling for a further tax increase in the coordinated November 2 election to pay for “good” fire protection.

The tax hike, if passed, would raise more than $ 2.4 million this year at a tax rate of 6.4 million, or $ 45.76 per year per $ 100,000 of the value of resident ownership, so the district will hire new staff, replace aging equipment, and fund new stations that would help strengthen their coverage area. A mill royalty is a tax rate applied to the assessed value of a property.

This coverage area, which Security Fire Department chief Dave Girardin said was recently expanded to include Lorson Ranch, included around 16,000 homes, putting the service on track to reach 6,600 calls in 2021.

To handle the volume of calls – which Girardin said was second in the county, behind the Colorado Springs Fire Department – the department plans to hire about a dozen new employees: six firefighters and six medical responders. ’emergency.

Tax revenues from the measure are also expected to help meet the department’s future and future facility needs, including a fourth fire station, which is underway, as well as a future fifth station to help with coverage.

These stations are needed, Girardin said, to help redistribute resources within the department’s 55 square mile coverage area.

“The ideal goal is to reduce response times. Get to your home faster, safely and be able to help faster, ”said Girardin.

Safety firefighters and emergency medical responders, Girardin said, have average response times of just over seven minutes. For Lorson Ranch, their most recent coverage area and furthest from any station in the department, that response time is closer to nine minutes.

Part of the reason the ministry needs to replace equipment, including at least two fire trucks, is that much of the equipment was purchased in the early and late 1990s and is now approaching the 20-year retirement age that the department uses to maintain its equipment. in good condition.

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But for staff, who Girardin says often treat departmental positions as stepping stones to higher-paying jobs in Colorado Springs, the problem isn’t just replacing departing staff.

“We are probably losing nine paramedics and firefighters and mixed paramedics, not one more than the others,” Girardin said. “So we’re trying to get pay increases for guys and girls with this measure to keep and retain our skilled and competent firefighters.

“We are currently one of the lowest paid fire departments in El Paso County. ”

In 2020, the department’s budget was $ 4,955,965. More than 55% of this sum went to the payment of staff, which, according to the figures proposed for the 2021 budget tabled at the end of 2020, represented the most important expenditure of the department.

Many people interviewed by the district shared the department’s concerns about their ability to respond to people and emergencies in their coverage area and spoke in favor of the measure.

“A lot of us really enjoy what you’re doing – and know you’re doing it with a minimum,” said one supporter when interviewed by the district.

“I think with the growth that we are seeing, we should all be proactive in increasing the protection that the fire safety service provides us,” wrote another.

Others, however, were concerned about the proposed property tax hike, with the move coming on the heels of another one-cent-on-the-dollar tax increase for area properties for 2021.

The new tax, according to the measure, would not be subject to a state-imposed 5.5% limit, according to the Division of Local Government’s correspondence with the district, which normally limits the amount of properties that can be taxed.

Some interviewees questioned the transparency of district spending.

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“I think the cost and monthly electric bill (plus) future maintenance of new marquees displayed in current stations (fire department security)… is a waste of funds. The money should have been allocated to equipment (and) personnel, ”one respondent wrote.

Some Security-Widefield residents also believed that their incomes have not adjusted with the recent tax increases.

“Fixed income, live only on social security. Every dollar is needed. Although we need the extra service, (we) cannot afford to pay more tax to pay for it, ”one interviewee said.

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