By Moses Leos III
Emergency Service Districts in Buda and Kyle are making rapid changes, trying to keep up with population growth while maintaining their level of performance.
Roughly three months after gaining voter approval, the Emergency Service District #2 (ESD 2) is preparing to implement those new taxes for the fiscal year 2016.
The proposed increase, which could be adopted as part of the ESD’s budget on Sept. 14, would increase rates to $.05 cents per $100 home valuation.
In May, Buda voters gave the green light for ESD 2 to potentially raise its tax rate to $.10 per $100 valuation, which is the highest rate ESD’s can set, per state law.
But the ESD 2 Board of Directors passed a resolution to only budget for the five-cent tax rate for the next two years.
The rate increase, along with projected new growth in the area, could allow the ESD to potentially bring in $1.293 million in revenue.
That level of funding could allow for several key expenditures, including a fully equipped EMS unit that costs approximately $220,000.
ESD 2 currently has three EMS units in service, with two of the units running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Huckaby said those units are becoming “dated,” with one of them logging more than 130,000 miles.
The rate increase, however, will not go toward staffing the new unit.
“Hopefully, as taxes increase, we can staff that ambulance in the next few years,” Huckaby said.
The increase could also allow the ESD to bump up starting pay for EMS technicians from $48,000 to $52,000 per year. The move, Huckaby said, would be done to “be more competitive in the Central Texas region with departments our size.”
ESD 8, or the Buda Fire Department, could see a possible $300,000 increase in revenue based on anticipated new growth in the area. ESD 8 is currently locked at the state mandated ten-cent cap.
Huckaby said the department plans to maintain operations in the next fiscal year.
The revenue generated could allow ESD 8 to purchase three new brush trucks at $100,000 each. Buda’s, he said, are outdated.
The department also plans to purchase new personal protection equipment, or bunker gear, for firefighters.
But one of the major challenges for ESD 8 is keeping up with Buda’s growth. Huckaby said 709 homes and 13 commercial businesses were added to the property tax rolls this year.
With calls for service going up, the ultimate goal for Huckaby in the future is to ensure the ESD has enough units to respond.
“There’s no more sitting around and waiting for a call,” Huckaby said. “Some days, we’re running 15 calls a day and going non-stop.”
Meanwhile, ESD 5, or the Kyle Fire Department, is anticipating the hiring of six new firefighters in 2016. The expense is part of the ESD’s proposed $2.375 million budget.
Kyle Fire Department Chief Kyle Taylor said the ESD is not planning any capital expenditures in FY 2016.
The city of Kyle, however, is planning to allocate roughly $75,000 from the general fund as part of its proposed FY 2016 budget. That amount would go toward the purchase of new breathing apparatus equipment.
Meeting the rapid growth of their area is also a concern for Taylor. ESD 5 services a total population of 65,000 to 70,000 people.
But recent measures to generate additional revenue both failed in the last calendar year. Legislation to raise an ESD’s tax rate cap failed in the legislature. In November 2014, Kyle voters voted against the ESD collecting sales tax revenue in the city’s unincorporated areas.
For Taylor, attempting to get the ceiling raised or collecting sales tax are two ways the department will attempt to meet the demand for service.
“If property values don’t keep going up, we’re going to have issues,” Taylor said.
Northeast Hays County EMS
Proposing 5 cents per $100 valution
Kyle Fire Dept.
Proposing 10 cents per $100 valuation
Buda Fire Dept
Proposing 10 cents per $100 valution