After the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District board decided to place a mill levy increase question on the Nov. 6 ballot, the next step was choosing the ballot question's wording. Because the language had to be submitted to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office by Sept. 7, the board made its decision on Sept. 4 at a special board meeting.
Battalion Chief Bryan Jack, this year's district election officer, explained that the way a ballot question is written is set by state statute. Before deciding on the language, the board deliberated on the resolution that will be used as talking points during the upcoming campaign, which can't be conducted by the district.
Jack explained that the district is losing money because property tax revenue is below the 2008 level of $2.999 million but inflation has increased by 11 percent. He also set out three options for the district that will happen if revenues don't increase: losing an ambulance and laying off staff, closing a station and laying off staff, or an across-the-board 6 percent reduction in pay, about $3,400 per employee.
“If we start laying off or reducing pay and benefits we'll have an exodus,” said boardmember Roger Lance. “Sometimes the first (people) you'll lose are your best. … The most logical station to close would be Station 3 in Woodmoor because it has the biggest overlap with our other stations.”
“As blunt and horrible as it seems, we do have to make hard choices,” said Battalion Chief Greg Lovato. “Layoffs, closing a station will impact our populations, especially seniors.”
Board treasurer John Hildebrandt said seniors would be the most affected because they have the biggest needs. Lance added that closing Station 3 would also impact response times to the three schools located nearby, Lewis-Palmer High School, a middle school and an elementary school.
All of these concerns, plus concerns about equipment that should have been but hasn't been replaced or repaired, are embodied in the middle paragraph of the ballot question language, which states that the district must add new revenue: “Offsetting decreases in tax revenue resulting from lower assessed values of property within the district, maintaining current staffing levels, maintaining fire protection and EMS vehicles and equipment, maintaining stations, real property, facilities or equipment as necessary to ensure the safety of the community.”
With the ballot language approved, it will be incorporated, along with pro and con statements due Sept. 25, into the county's Yellow Book that explains to voters the various ballot questions and initiatives that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.