Voters in the Highlands Ranch Metro District and the Littleton Fire Protection District approved inclusion with South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) at a May 8 election. Voter approval was the final step for the Littleton Fire Rescue (LFR) partners to join SMFR beginning in January. The Littleton City Council approved an agreement with SMFR following a public hearing on April 17. The second reading of the ordinance passed on a 6-1 vote. The SMFR Board passed the same agreement at its May 2 board meeting. The city will begin contracting with SMFR for fire service on January 1, 2019. An election will be held November 6 to determine whether the city becomes a fully included member of South Metro just as the fire partners did on May 8. If voters approve the question, SMFR’s mill levy of 9.25 mills would be applied across the entire city. At the same time, the city’s current property tax would be reduced by 4.662 mills to offset some of the cost. Both the SMFR’s mill levy increase and the city’s mill levy reduction would take effect on January 1, 2020. An example of the financial change for the median home price of $370,000 is noted in the figure below. Voter approval in November will also allow the city to redirect an estimated $3.1 million of annual city funds to address critically needed street and infrastructure maintenance and improvements. If the vote fails, the city will continue to pay SMFR for fire protection services from the general fund and not be able to adequately fund the needed street and infrastructure maintenance. Long-term contracting for fire and emergency services will also present a long-term challenge in the ability to fund the other essential services of the general fund, such as police and public works. Street maintenance and infrastructure are established community needs reinforced by multiple citizen surveys where it is one of the top concerns over the past six years. With the $3.1 million, the city plans to catch up on years of deferred maintenance and invest in improvements throughout the city including major corridors and residential streets. Without this funding, many of the city streets will continue to degrade to unacceptable levels. Background on the Inclusion Discussions on fire inclusion have been going on for years, but the issue was escalated late last year when LFR’s partners, the Littleton Fire Protection District and Highlands Ranch Metro District, announced in November of 2017 plans to join SMFR starting in January of 2019. The announcement spurred further analysis and negotiations to determine how to best provide high-quality, financially sustainable fire protection services to Littleton residents.
The formal dissolution of the fire partnership revealed that LFR cannot financially operate as a standalone department with at least the same level of service enjoyed for the past several decades. Besides being cost prohibitive, LFR is not equipped to independently provide adequate response times or standard levels of service. provides the highest level of service for the lowest cost. The new boundaries that formed when the partners joined SMFR created shared borders between the city and SMFR allowing for more efficient service. “The city council and staff’s number one priority is to ensure the continuation of quality fire and emergency medical services on January 1, 2019 following the end of the partnership. It is critical to have a seamless transition from Littleton Fire Rescue to South Metro Fire Rescue and the council action allows this to happen,” said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman. Other key decision factors that led the city to consider inclusion with SMFR include:
• Long-term cost savings compared to existing service
• Improved capacity for response to large-scale or multiple emergencies
• Additional firefighting staff and equipment housed at Littleton stations
• An improved Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, which may decrease insurance rates
• Littleton firefighters will have the opportunity to work for SMFR
• SMFR is an internationally accredited fire rescue agency
For more information on inclusion, visit www.littletongov.org/lfr-unification or southmetro.org.