Littleton doubles down on road-funding plan

Council reaffirms commitment to reallocate fire money to streets

Posted 8/26/18

Littleton City Council doubled down on its promise to redirect millions of city budget dollars to road repair if voters approve full inclusion city within the boundaries of South Metro Fire Rescue …

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Littleton doubles down on road-funding plan

Council reaffirms commitment to reallocate fire money to streets

Posted

Littleton City Council doubled down on its promise to redirect millions of city budget dollars to road repair if voters approve full inclusion of the city within the boundaries of South Metro Fire Rescue this fall.

Council voted unanimously at its Aug. 21 meeting to reaffirm plans to reallocate much of the money typically spent on paying for fire protection toward preventive maintenance on the city's aging road infrastructure, potentially injecting more than $3 million a year into the city's capital projects fund, which covers infrastructure upgrades.

The money would come from savings from no longer paying for fire coverage if voters this fall approve a measure to allow South Metro Fire Rescue to expand its borders to include Littleton, according to city documents.

“We would create a subfund that would be designated for this purpose,” said city finance director Tiffany Hooten. “Even at the end of the year, if those funds were not spent, we'll reserve the fund balance (until the next year).”

According to information presented at the meeting, Littleton currently spends about $7.1 million a year on its fire department, drawn from several sources including sales tax, property tax, emergency medical service transport fees and other sources. Much of the funding comes from the city's mill levy, currently at 6.662.

If voters approve inclusion, Littleton homeowners will begin paying South Metro for fire service at a rate of 9.25 mills in 2020, as the first year of fire service would be on a contract basis. The city is then obligated by an ordinance passed earlier this year to lower its mill levy from 6.662 to 2.0 — meaning ultimately Littleton homeowners will be on the hook for a cumulative 11.25 mills, or an increase of roughly $120 a year on a home valued at $370,000.

If the inclusion vote fails, Littleton will dissolve its fire department anyway, and begin contracting with South Metro for fire service regardless. The mill levy would remain the same, and the city would pay the difference in cost out of its general fund coffers, a scenario that city attorney Steve Kemp has called unsustainable.

The savings from no longer being responsible for fire protection could be a boon to the city's road maintenance budget, said public works director Keith Reester at an Aug. 14 council study session, especially as the city looks at much larger projects to expand traffic capacity in the face of a growing regional population.

“We're facing two components,” Reester said. “Preservation of our current structure, and capacity … If you take the Highway User Tax Fund and the vast majority of the $3.1 million (from fire merger savings) then you're past the point of just preserving what we have.”

Among the projects Reester would like to accomplish, he said, are upgrading the city's thousands of locations that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and linking the city's traffic signals with fiber optics to better respond to traffic flows.

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