ESD 1 turns to voters for sales tax proposal

Dripping Springs area voters will decide this May whether or not to implement a sales tax increase that officials believe could help an emergency service district (ESD) meet rapid growth.   

The proposal, brought forward by the North Hays County Emergency Services District No. 1 (ESD 1), calls for a .5 percent sales tax increase on each purchase within district boundaries. County officials believe the proposal is needed to help the ESD keep up with increasing calls.

ESD No. 1 is made up of roughly 244 square miles and encompasses northern Hays County, including the city of Dripping Springs, and consists of about 33,000 residents.

From 2013-2017, the number of calls to the district increased by roughly eight percent each year, Geoffrey Tahuahua, ESD 1 Commissioner, said.

With U.S. Highway 290 in the middle of the district, ESD 1 is a prime spot for future development and traffic as commuters travel to and from Austin, and is expected to continue to grow.

ESD No.1 has two ambulances, staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. It is not uncommon for both units to be out on calls at the same time, Tahuahua said. During particularly busy times, ambulances from Kyle and Buda are sometimes called in as back up to help. While Tahuahua said the county appreciates the help, he compared the situation to borrowing a neighbor’s lawn mower.

“When it happens regularly, it becomes a concern, and perhaps you should look into acquiring your own,” he said.

ESD 1 operations are currently funded through property taxes. At 3 cents per $100 evaluation, ESD 1 has one of the lowest tax rates in the state, Tauhua said. Expenses for the last fiscal year totaled roughly $1.8 million.

“We take a lot of pride in the quality and the level of our care we provide to our residents,” Tauhua said. “It’s a big reason why we’re so concerned about the current state. As our population continues to age and continues to grow, we want to make sure we maintain that same level of service.”

Early voting begins April 22 and will last until May 1. Election Day is scheduled for May 5.

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