By SHELLY WILKISON
Commissioners of the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 adopted a $3.086 million budget for fiscal 2017 that is funded primarily by ad valorem revenue generated by a tax rate of $0.098285 per $100 property valuation.
The votes on the budget and tax rate were unanimous Monday, with Commissioner James Baker absent.
Commissioners adopted the rollback rate, which will generate 10.34 percent more revenue for the fire district than the current fiscal year. The current tax rate is $0.096124 per $100 property value.
The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
In previous meetings, Commissioners have discussed the newly-adopted budget, which includes the addition of six firefighter positions to staff a temporary fire station scheduled to come online in April 2018.
The temporary station, which will be located in the area of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and State Highway 29, precedes a permanent station that will be constructed across from Santa Rita Ranch North on SH 29. The permanent facility, which was originally scheduled to open in spring 2017 is now scheduled for completion in August 2018.
“Our response times are getting longer because we’ve got more traffic, and the only way you can improve that is getting more stations, start getting them closer (to the population growth). So when we saw it was going to be a delay, I asked commissioners if we could find a temporary place,” Lincoln told The Independent following the meeting.
He said the department is looking now for a place to house a two-person squad with one of the smaller vehicles to run medical calls and be the first response in the eastern part of the fire district.
Lincoln said it would take nine firefighters to staff the permanent station. In fiscal 2018, he anticipates adding the three additional positions.
“That’s going to make a big impact in that five mile radius around it,” he said, adding that he isn’t sure what form the temporary facility will take. “It may be a job trailer or a house, something two guys can live in 24 hours a day.”
He said shorter response times will be noticeable almost immediately after a temporary station is up and running.
The budget adopted this week includes $18,000 for the temporary station and $198,000 for the six additional firefighters to staff it.
“We’ve been promising people this (adding a second station) is what we’re going to do, and they’re ready for us and they deserve to have this service out there,” Lincoln said.
“We’re not here to keep the money in the bank. We’re here to provide a service,” he said, adding that a third station could be under construction as soon as 2021.
The new permanent station at Santa Rita, which is projected to cost as much as $4 million, will have space for an ambulance, but Lincoln said the County hasn’t made a decision yet as to whether to place a vehicle there.
The 2017-2018 budget also includes funding for a full-time fire marshal, and a pay raise for all employees, with the exception of Chief Lincoln.
Lincoln said he didn’t budget one for himself. He told The Independent that in the four years he has been chief, he received one pay increase and that was last year.
“I knew where our budget was going to be and I wanted to keep us moving forward,” he said. “We had so many projects so many things we need to do.”
Effective Oct. 1, the base pay increases $3,000 from $39,000 to $42,000, with each additional step seeing an increase. Lincoln said everyone will see an increase in October, and then again as they move to the next step on their employment anniversary date.
In addition to revenue from ad valorem taxes, WCESD #4 also collects revenue generated by a 1/4 cent sales tax in the fire district but outside the Liberty Hill city limits. In fiscal 2017, the tax is projected to generate about $400,811, which will go into the reserve fund. Some of those monies will be used to pay for the second fire station.
In other business Monday, the Board:
– Approved a Community Wildfire Protection Plan developed by the Texas Forestry Service and local ESD staff,
– Selected Sabre Commercial as the Construction Manager at Risk for Fire Station #2,
– Approved an inter-local agreement with the City of Liberty Hill for accounting services in the amount of $26,000 annually for two years.
– Approved budget amendments to the fiscal 2016 budget, and
– Set the next board meeting for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16.