This November, Golden voters will decide whether to approve an increase in property tax “to fund the capital needs and operational costs of the Golden Fire Department” and provide a sustainable source of funding. Currently, many of Golden’s firefighters are funded through federal grants with a limited duration, which is not sustainable. Golden desperately needs this dedicated funding source to be able to meet national response time standards, to protect our homes and families, and to adequately staff two fire stations. The funding would be audited annually and strengthen Golden’s fire, paramedic, and wildfire response.
Golden’s portion of property taxes has not been increased in over 30 years. Currently, Golden’s local property tax mill levy is 12.34 mills, which is about 14% of the total property tax for a Golden resident. A 6-mill increase is about $34 per $100K of home value (a mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value). Most districts fund their fire protection through a property tax mill levy.
Golden’s budget funding incorporates their services (police, fire, parks, water, sewer…), whereas many jurisdictions separate out some of their services. For example, a home in Wheat Ridge has a local mill levy of 20.9 mills (sum of city=1.8, sanitation district=6.3, West Metro Fire=12.75 mills). A home in Arvada has a total mill levy of 23.8 (sum of city=4.3, parks=4.6, Arvada Fire=14.893). Golden’s proposed local mill levy is lower than that of many neighboring cities.
Golden has been wrestling with how to transform and adequately fund fire protection for several years. The City’s website (www.cityofgolden.net/fire) has links to the 2023 Cooperative Services Study and Decision Analysis, which contain information behind City Council’s decision to approve a standalone fire department. They considered several factors and compared a standalone department with merging with West Metro or Arvada Fire Protection Districts. The standalone department is the most cost-effective approach and retains local control.
Total 2023 expenditures for the Golden Fire Department are budgeted as $7.66 million, and this amount of funding is not sustainable within existing revenue and expiring federal grants. Golden needs a tax mill levy increase to sustainably fund fire protection, preserve local control, and maintain our nearly 150-year-old independent fire department.
Kathy Smith, Golden
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