A judge recently denied local political fixture Carol Brzeczek's challenges against elements of the ballot measure that will determine whether Littleton becomes fully included in the boundaries of …
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The finalized language of the ballot measure that Littleton voters will see regarding inclusion within the boundaries of South Metro Fire Rescue reads as follows:
Shall the following described area become a part of the South Metro Fire Rescue Fire Protection District upon the following conditions?
Description of Area: All real property located within the boundaries of the City of Littleton.
Summary of Conditions:
1.Unless otherwise approved by the voters in advance, the maximum mill levy that shall be imposed by South Metro Fire Rescue Fire Protection District (“South Metro”) is 9.25 mills or less, exclusive of refunds and abatements, such mill levy to be certified by December 15, 2019 for collection in 2020; and
2.If the proposed inclusion is approved by a majority of the eligible electors, the Pre-Unification and Fire Authority Member Agreement (“Pre-Unification Agreement”) between the City of Littleton (“Littleton”) and South Metro dated April 18, 2018, requires Littleton, beginning with taxes certified by December 15, 2019 for collection in 2020, to reduce its property tax by 4.662 mills, from 6.662 to 2.0 mills, which, with the 9.25 South Metro mill levy, will result in combined South Metro and Littleton property taxes of 11.25 mills; and
3.The proposed inclusion is subject to the terms and conditions of the Pre-Unification Agreement, including but not limited to the transfer of Littleton Fire Department Assets and personnel, including fire stations and fire apparatus, to South Metro and revising South Metro Board Member districts to include Littleton (a copy of the Pre-Unification Agreement is available for review from South Metro or on its website: http://www.southmetro.org/).
A judge recently denied local political fixture Carol Brzeczek's challenges against elements of the ballot measure that will determine whether Littleton becomes fully included in the boundaries of South Metro Fire Rescue, and ballots will soon be sent to the printer, but Brzeczek may not be done yet.
Brzeczek filed suit against South Metro Fire Rescue earlier in the summer, alleging that the language of the ballot measure incorrectly or inadequately conveyed the conditions under which Littleton could become part of South Metro's fire protection district. She also called the process South Metro used to finalize the measure improper.
Arapahoe County District Judge Frederick Martinez ruled against Brzeczek on Aug. 10, saying that voters would be adequately informed by the ballot language, and that a prior judge's ruling on the process used to finalize the language could stand.
Now, Brzeczek said she may appeal her case to the state Supreme Court, asserting that “the sanctity of election law is too important to let go.”
“I'd like to say it's over,” Brzeczek said. “I wish South Metro had been more honorable to begin with. If they had followed the law, we wouldn't be here.”
Specifically, Brzeczek asserts misconduct in the appointment of Barb Andrews as the district's designated election official, alleging that her appointment was not approved by the board as required by law. Both Judge Martinez and Douglas County Judge Paul King found Andrews' designation and appointment legitimate.
Brzeczek also asserted that the ballot language inaccurately states that if approved, the measure automatically lowers Littleton's mill levy rate from 6.662 to 2.0. She said that South Metro cannot force Littleton, a separate entity, to lower its mill levy.
A measure passed by Littleton City Council in April mandates that if voters approve inclusion, the city manager must submit a budget in 2019 that lowers the mill levy rate. Brzeczek says that just because the city manager submits such a budget, city council is not obligated to enact it. Littleton City Manager Mark Relph and city attorney Steve Kemp said in June that they see such a scenario as far-fetched.
Brzeczek also asserted that the ballot should include language saying that the transfer of equipment and assets to South Metro was irreversible, but Judge Martinez cited a clause in the pre-inclusion agreement that allows for the return of assets to Littleton if inclusion is unsuccessful or one party reneges.
South Metro has been transparent and behaved legally and in the best interest of voters, said South Metro Chief Bob Baker.
“The final ballot language is as clear as we can make it, and not misleading,” Baker said. “It's direct, and the judge agreed. We're glad he did.”
Brzeczek was one of five citizens who spoke at a public meeting on the ballot language in July, and it appears that her concerns were at least somewhat heeded, she said.
The most important issue from this point forward, Relph said, is making sure Littleton's transition to receiving fire coverage from South Metro — which will happen anyway on a contract basis if voters reject inclusion — is seamless.
“I've been very pleased with our interaction with South Metro thus far,” Relph said. “We didn't have a lot of time to get this done, but I think it will work out for the best for citizens.”
Relph said he's satisfied with the ballot language.
“It's neutral — that's the most important thing,” Relph said. “It provides more detail now, which is helpful. It's an improvement.”
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