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FFPD: pumping up for the mill levy

Dick Stuart, a community member and former firefighter, spearheaded the formation of The Friends of Falcon Fire Committee. Along with Matt Seube, current Falcon firefighter, and several other concerned citizens; their first task was having The Friends committee formally declared an “Issue Committee” by the state of Colorado.Seube said the purpose of The Friends committee is to educate the community about ballot 5E, which asks the voters to increase the mill levy by 2.9 mils. The current mill levy is 5.712, one of the lowest for fire departments in El Paso County (see graph of comparisons). Raising it would bring the final tally to 8.612.”The biggest thing we want to do is get everyone on the same page,” Seube said. “Our focus is to over saturate the community to get them educated.” Everything The Friends committee presents to the public is factual, he said.Besides no sales tax, The Friends committee has outlined three significant reasons for the mill levy increase – all based on revenue-reducing issues: the cessation of a federal staffing grant in February 2012; the exclusion of Banning Lewis Ranch from the district (which means losing revenue from all of the BLR property taxes); and declining assessed property values in the area resulting in a 10 to 15 percent property tax reduction.Seube further addressed the issues in an e-mail to The New Falcon Herald. Unlike most other districts, the FFPD is a special district that is entirely funded by a portion of property taxes, not a sales tax. Since roughly 6 to 8 percent of the total property tax bill goes to the FFPD, Seube said a mill levy increase will not have a huge effect on an individual’s property tax bill. “They will still recognize a large reduction in overall property tax in 2012,” he said.According to The Friends Committee brochure (approved by Chief Trent Harwig), Falcon homeowners currently pay $7.58 per month for a property valued at $200,000 for all emergency services and fire protection. The proposed increase in revenue will be shared throughout the fire district community at an additional $3.85 per month on a property valued at $200,000.Also, The Friends Committee noted that the FFPD has been “forced” to eliminate three full-time firefighter/EMT positions because of revenue shortfalls.Currently, the FFPD has five full-time and two part-time emergency personnel divided between two locations, serving the needs of more than 26,000 residents.”We need to save what we have gained and not go backwards. 5E is not a government growth question,” Suebe said. “It is designed to offset property tax reductions (to maintain) the current level of funding and services.”September board meeting – other fire businessFollowing a mill levy discussion and a presentation by The Friends of Falcon Fire Committee, the Falcon Fire Protection District board adopted the 2009 International Fire Code, with amendments.Chief Trent Harwig said all of El Paso County will be adopting the updated code.Battalion Chief Vernon Champlin informed the board that all fire departments involved in the adoption of the code will present to their boards in October. As a group, the departments will present the code to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners for their approval. Champlin said he is hoping they will present in November.

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