There appears to be some concern over the exclusion process in the Vollmer Rd, Black Forest Rd, and Woodmen Rd vicinity. The issue that has arisen is that the original figures provided in the fall of 2017 were not based on any accurate calculations. The previous fire administration assumed the exclusions would create a 9% reduction in revenue or perhaps even as high as a 10% reduction in revenue. Considering Colorado’s growth was around 7% and the District’s growth had been around 6% the recommendation to move forward with the Board of Director’s exclusion proposal was viewed as a minor reduction that would likely be overcome within the span of two years. Therefore, the Board adopted a resolution to work with the city in January 2018 on an exclusion process.
A revenue reduction of any kind is certainly an issue to the safety of both the firefighters and the community. Reductions impact the capabilities and capacities of the department, having a direct correlation on overall operational ability. The perceived risk to the community and to personnel was considered manageable based upon that 9-10% reduction combined with a 6-7% growth rate. However, those figures were not accurate. Therefore, a new perspective and plan was required to achieve both the desired end state of excluding those dual response properties while also managing the risks to the entire community.
A conservative growth rate of 5% within the District would have assisted with offsetting the perceived worst-case revenue loss of 10% and this scenario, while a burden, could be managed and recouped within two years. While working on budget projections for both 2021 and 2022 it was discovered that there was no hard data to indicate where this assumed 9-10% revenue loss number had been drawn from by the previous administration in 2017. It was determined that the total expected loss of revenue is 24%, more than double what the exclusion plan was based on. The growth rate was at 5.5% prior to both the economy faltering and the latest threats of additional annexations. While indications are that our local housing market is still strong, we should expect some slowing down.
Using a growth rate of 5% it would now take nearly 5 years of growth to offset the revenue losses of exclusion. My office believes that timeline to be far too long; thus we embarked upon a mission to develop a plan that was both reasonable and still in alignment with everyone’s desired end state of excluding those parcels from the dual response area. Our goal is to complete those exclusions within three years, assuming 8% losses each year with a growth rate of 5%, this will bring us back to within the manageable risks the original desired plan assumed.
Once we determined that we needed to manage the exclusion process in a more conservative and responsible manner, the next major question was how to determine which third of the overall area would be excluded first, then second and then third? A plan to exclude HOAs was being considered but the HOAs are comprised of subdivision filings of varying ages meaning a plan of excluding the oldest homes first would create a patchwork, creating more confusion. A more reasonable plan needed to be developed and it was during this time that suddenly, three days before a City Council meeting and one week before an election, City Council decided to suddenly change course, contact the District, and seek exclusion, though they had been primarily absent for nearly three years.
Three subdivision filings believed to be older filings at the time, were recommended to the City at that time while additional research was being attempted. Black Forest Fire Rescue did not want to miss the sudden and unexpected opportunity to work with the City in finally getting the process moving forward after 33 months of zero progress but we also would prefer to have 600-700 parcels excluded in 2020, not the mere 392. The BFFR department does not have the resources or staff to engage in sufficient research, especially in such a time compressed manner, to ensure that all the information available was reviewed before the City Council passed a resolution. I intend on advising the Board of Directors that a better plan to exclude would be one that achieves the desired end state of total exclusion in an order moving from the interior of the city to the municipal boundary. In this deliberate manner, fire and medical resources responding into these areas daily would not have jurisdictional uncertainty and confusion.
It is my intention that this letter to the community offer more clarity of the issues and the plans moving forward. Rural fire departments are more resource intensive than municipal departments and yet have far less resources to accomplish the mission. With the laws of physics remaining the same regardless of jurisdiction, it would be reckless and irresponsible to not manage the exclusion process in an orderly, reasonable, and responsible manner.