Yes, the ESD would create a new tax, but the bottom line is that our existing VFD’s are supported by a minority of those receiving the services . As an example, in the current Sunrise Beach VFD 2021 Giving Campaign, 30% of the community picked up the bill for everyone in the the city. This new ESD would distribute that financial burden equitably across the whole community, while allowing the leadership to better plan and prepare.
Taxes and Fees
Let’s break down some specific numbers. The current median home price in our area is $360,000. That means that at the highest ESD tax rate allowed by state law – the “worst case” – fully funded and accountable emergency services would cost that homeowner about $30 per month. That’s about half of your current base water bill, or less than half of what you probably pay for cable or satellite TV. Of course many would pay less, and some would pay a lot more, depending on the value of their property. But everyone would share the cost.
The ESD can bring in funds in other ways too. Besides collecting the tax, the ESD may charge fees for service. These can include charges for EMS costs, fire code inspections, false alarm fees (subject to a notice and public hearing), and for hazmat response and cleanup. They may also receive and accept donations, and individual VFD’s can continue to hold fundraisers and accept donations as always.
Besides contracting with the existing departments and other agencies to provide service, the ESD may employ individuals to accomplish ESD activities. This means that paid staff could be used to supplement the volunteers. They can also purchase vehicles, equipment, and apparatus for the contractors to use to provide emergency services.
The ESD can buy and own real estate, and construct facilities like stations and water supply infrastructure. They can borrow money through bonds or loans, and can invest funds – subject to some very strict guidelines.
All ESD’s must be able to show the public where the money went. ESD’s must adopt a budget, and file an annual report every year with the Texas Department of Emergency Management that includes the annual budget and tax rate for the preceding year. The ESD must post a bond with Llano County in an amount determined by the County Judge.
Complete financial information must be reported to the Texas Comptroller each year, and an audit must be conducted by an independent CPA and delivered to the County Commissioners Court for review. A Records Management Program must be created and filed with State Library and Archives Commission.