ESD set to adopt $3.8 million budget

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Increasing property values and rising sales tax revenue has Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 set to maintain its current tax rate while bumping its budgeted expenses by more than $800,000.

Expansion meant a bigger budget, with construction already started on Fire Station No. 2 in Santa Rita, and the addition of more firefighters to staff the growth on the district’s east side.

The total proposed budget is $3,889,536, an increase of $802,961 over the current fiscal year. Debt service on the new station is $340,000 and more than $350,000 was in additional personnel.

“This is the year we’ve been planning for,” said Chief Anthony Lincoln through the planning process. “We’ve
known this was coming, that’s why we’ve been trying to get some money in the bank, trying to get in position where we can absorb this year and next and level out after that.”

Total debt service for the upcoming year increased by $396,770 annually to $624,018 next year with the additional payments for the new station and the new engine recently delivered.

The debt on Fire Station No. 1 will be paid off after two years, which will then lower the debt service amount as it and other vehicles come off the books.

Personnel expenses are up $642,512 to $2,211,331 of the total budget.

“We added six people in the middle of this year going into that new station,” Lincoln said. “With that comes the cost related to it such as taxes, retirement and everything that goes with it. We took a big jump in salaries going from 18 to 24 people.”

The addition of a full-time fire marshal accounted for some increase as well, bumping the budget by $102,048 for personnel as well as a slight increase in community awareness funding for programs.

“I’ve been visiting with the fire marshal about some of the things I want to do with some community services, putting out some more information, so we saw there would be an increase there,” Lincoln said.

With growth, line items such as apparatus maintenance, fuel, utilities, insurance, training and equipment all saw an increase as well.

Lincoln reminded commissioners that there were expenses related to the temporary station on the east side of the district, and that the new station, once completed would only impact the budget for about half the fiscal year and that those expenses were only estimates currently.

The majority of revenue for the ESD come in the form of property taxes, projected at $3,107,778. It is an increase over last year’s property tax revenues of $775,309.

Sales tax revenues continue to climb, projected for budgeting at $570,000 next year. The current year’s adopted sales tax revenue projection was $400,629 but has already surpassed that total through August. If approved, the ESD will fund about $117,000 of the next budget with reserves.

“We knew we would have to fund some of new station out of reserves,” Lincoln said. “Revenues are higher so we didn’t have to dig as much in reserves to fund the budget. When we got final numbers on our tax numbers the reserves we needed went down a few hundred thousand dollars.”

The rollback tax rate for the ESD came in at $0.108069, higher than the legal maximum rate of $0.10 per $100 valuation for ESDs in Texas.

The effective tax rate, which would have generated the same amount in property tax revenues as the current year, would have been $0.089911.

Commissioners will adopt the tax rate and budget Sept. 10 at their next meeting at Fire Station No. 1, 301 Loop 332.

“We’re growing, there’s no doubt about it. We know every day we have more services on the street than we ever had before,” Lincoln said. “When you look at what’s going on around us it is pretty amazing what these budgets have been able to do for us. We try to look at the service delivery side of it, because that’s what we’re here for. We want to make sure we have the firefighters on the street.”

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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