Voters in the Aspen Fire Protection District overwhelmingly approved an increased mill levy rate, a result that will allow officials to to replace aging fire apparatus, hire additional staff to support training efforts for volunteer firefighters, build affordable housing to support recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and establish an emergency reserve fund.
The tax rate bump passed 3,454 to 1,371, or 72 to 28 percent. It will increase the mill levy from the current 0.874 to 2.199, bringing in an estimated $3.3 million on top of the district’s projected fiscal year 2019 spending of $3.47 million.
A 12- to 14-unit housing complex that will be available to volunteer firefighters is planned for land the district owns near the Aspen Business Center. After the debt required to build the project is paid off in roughly 20 years, the additional mill levy will drop to 0.9 mills.
Even with the increase, Aspen Fire’s mill levy will be the lowest operational mill levy of any fire district in the state, which is possible thanks to the department’s volunteer-reliant structure. This was the first-ever mill levy increase requested by the district, which was created in 1953.
Pitkin County voters decided overwhelming Tuesday that a property tax that assists health initiatives and social services throughout the Roaring Fork Valley should be renewed.
With 80 percent of the vote reported, the tax question to continue support for the Healthy Community Fund, ballot item 1A, enjoyed 5,240 “yes” votes, or 69 percent, compared with 2,353 “no” votes, or 31 percent.
Kathrine Sand, director of Aspen Family Connections, one of more than 60 nonprofits that receive funding through the program, said the victory shows that county voters are generous and that they care about the health and welfare of the overall community. Sand is a member of the team that organized a grassroots campaign to spread the word about the benefits of the fund.
“It was a very crowded ballot with a lot of worthy revenue-raising measures on it, and I think we decided early on there was no room for complacency. We never took the election for granted,” she said.
The 16-year-old Healthy Community Fund was first approved by voters in 2002 and renewed in 2006 and 2011. The tax — expected to generate an estimate $3.08 million annually — will remain in place for nine years instead of the shorter periods for which it was approved previously. There was no organized opposition to it.