An Emergency Services District (ESD) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas, similar to a School District, Library District or Utility District. An ESD is an independent local government, with the power to levy taxes in order to provide fire protection, emergency medical services or both.
ESD’s ensure a reliable, predictable source of adequate funding for local fire, EMS, rescue, and other emergency services. They also spread the responsibility for this funding among all parties who might receive those services.
ESD’s are authorized by the Texas Constitution in Article 3, Section 48-e, which sets forth the general purposes and establishes the $0.10 per $100 ad valorem tax cap. Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 775 is the enabling legislation, which defines how ESD’s are to be formed and how they must operate.
ESD’s are also bound by Texas Government Code, Chapter 551 and Chapter 552, which specify open meeting and open records requirements, respectively. They must also adhere to all Truth-in-Taxation requirements, election laws, and local government codes.
History of ESD’s
The roots of ESD’s can be found in Rural Fire Prevention Districts. The notion of RFPD’s was spearheaded by farmers and insurance companies as early as 1949, with the enabling statute passed in 1957. A tax cap of $0.03 per $100 valuation was set forth for all RFPD’s.
Emergency Services Districts, with their $0.10 tax cap, were created in 1987. In 2003, all RFPD’s were converted to ESD’s by the State Legislature, but the tax rate for converted RFPD’s was held at $0.03 unless changed by election.
Finally, in 2011, State Senate Bill 917 increased accountability and oversight for ESD’s and consolidated them all under a single set of laws