- What is a fire protection district?
A special district, such as the Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District, is a quasi-municipal corporation and political subdivision of the State of Colorado formed to provide necessary public services that the county or municipality cannot otherwise provide. It is essentially a tax-exempt financing mechanism used for the installation, operation and maintenance of public infrastructure.
- How is a special district governed?
A special district is governed by a five or seven member Board of Directors, who are elected by the registered electors within the district to staggered terms. Anyone who is registered to vote in the State of Colorado and resides within the special district or who owns taxable property within the boundaries of the special district is eligible to serve on the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors may hire a manager, employees or consultants to carry out the purposes of the special district and to ensure compliance with all statutory requirements for the special district’s operations.
- How does a special district function after organization?
A special district is a quasi-municipal corporation and political subdivision of the State of Colorado and must comply with the open meeting laws, public bidding requirements, any restrictions in its Service Plan, public budget law and public audit requirements. Typically, the Boards of Directors of a special district meet on a regular basis to handle the business of the District. Many special districts engage a professional management company, general counsel and an accountant experienced with governmental accounting to assist and advise in the District’s functions.
- How does a special district pay for its capital needs and general operating costs?
A special district is authorized to utilize a number of ways to raise revenues, including issuing debt, levying taxes, and imposing fees and charges. The issuance of debt or an increase in taxes first requires an election and approval by the qualified voters of the district, as required by TABOR (Section 20, Article 10 of the Colorado Constitution).
Methods of raising revenue include:
- General Obligation Bonds
- Revenue Bonds
- Mill Levy
- Service Charges and Fees
- Grants and Loans
- What limitations exist with respect to a special district’s ability to raise fees and taxes?
A special district’s fees and taxes are set by its Board of Directors, subject to the limitations imposed by TABOR, Colorado statutes, and the special district’s electors through the election process. In addition, limitations may be placed upon the special district’s debt issuance or its mill levy by its Service Plan and/or required by the governing jurisdiction during the Service Plan approval process.
- What are the benefits of a special district?
- A special district can raise funds for public infrastructure through municipal bonds (or other governmental grant or loan programs if applicable) with favorable rates and terms not available to private entities.
- Special districts are exempt from sales, use and other taxes for equipment, supplies and services allowing lower overhead costs.
- A special district is not in the business of making a profit from the facilities and services provided. Specific statutes govern the expenditures and revenues of special districts.
- State-obligated budget, audit and other financial filing and reporting requirements provide regulatory oversight of a special district’s operations.
- A special district is governed by local control over the services that are provided on a community basis. The special district is responsive and accountable for decisions through the election and public hearing processes. The business of the special district is conducted at public meetings.
- Special districts enjoy governmental immunity against certain legal actions thus avoiding expensive lawsuits and corresponding tax or fee increases.
- Because of its local nature, a special district is often better able to address issues of local concern to the community than could a larger county or municipality.