New Five-Year Operating Levy Passes for Aurora Fire District, Staving off Severe Budget Cuts

Second time’s the charm. After a proposed measure for a new, five-year operating levy of 99 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation failed in May 2018 — by nine votes — the Aurora Fire District opted to try again in this year’s election.

They had better luck this time around, as the measure passed, by 236 votes. It will replace the current levy of 49 cents when it expires at the end of the year. Had the measure failed without any replacement, the district would have been facing up to 37 percent budget cuts.

“The district is thankful for the confidence our citizens have in us,” Aurora Fire Chief Joshua Williams said. “We are extremely excited for the future of Aurora Fire District and the improved service we will begin to deliver.”

He said the only difference between this year’s proposal and the one that failed last year was that the district made a much more concerted effort to inform and engage voters, including holding several town hall-style Q&As (which, Chief Williams admits, probably would have been better attended if all three hadn’t been held on the same nights as Blazer games). The district also distributed flyers, shared information and answered questions online and through social media, and Chief Williams even did an interview with some local news podcast you’ve probably never heard of.

“I believe this shows our effort of informing our citizens about the needs of the fire district was very impactful,” Williams said.

The district board of directors says the funds will allow Aurora Fire to greatly increase services, including being able to respond to calls 24 hours a day with career EMT/firefighters for the first time in its history. The district responds to over 1,000 calls each year, which they say is a stretch for their current resources.

“Most of our calls for service occur when there are no career staff on duty,” Aurora Fire Chief Joshua Williams said in a letter submitted to the county elections office explaining the proposal. “Currently, there are only four career employees on duty Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Once the business office has closed, volunteers and students are the primary emergency responders.”

As in the past, Aurora Fire does rely on volunteers to bridge this funding gap, but the district says that time commitments and other demands have reached a point where it is difficult to recruit and maintain volunteer firefighters. Funds from the levy will also be used to bolster this aspect of the district’s service, paying for repairs, upgraded emergency equipment and enhancements to the current student and volunteer program.

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