ESD looking for sales-tax assistance on May ballot
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Outside the Liberty Hill City limits, there’s between three quarters of a cent and one cent available in sales tax revenues, and Williamson County Emergency Services District (ESD) #4 is hoping voters will approve a proposition on the May 1 ballot to allocate it for the fire department.
The ESD currently receives one cent of sales tax revenues within the district. If the proposition passes, then all of the maximum 8.25 percent in sales tax would be sewn up in the area, with a quarter cent going to the Library District and 6.25 percent to the state.
Inside the Liberty Hill City limits, the 1.75 above the library’s share and the state’s portion goes to the City, not the ESD.
The three quarters of a cent available outside the City limits is what will be voted on, and in some areas outside the Library District the ESD could gain an entire cent.
“By approving this new sales tax rate, Williamson County ESD #4 will be able to increase with the growth of the community by adding firefighters and fire stations,” said Jeff Foster, President of Liberty Hill Professional Firefighters Association Local 4744. “Adding additional stations and personnel will help property owners in the reduction of your insurance rates and provide a faster response time to emergencies that may occur.”
According to Foster, sales tax revenue represents only about 15 percent of the ESD budget, but recent legislative changes to property tax increases has made the sales tax portion more important than ever.
“Senate Bill 2 has reduced the amount of tax revenue we can safely receive without election by 4.5 percent,” Foster said. “The old roll back tax rate was at 8 percent and that has been reduced to 3.5 percent.”
In 2020, the ESD brought in $1.2 million in sales tax revenues, nearly 50 percent more than the $807,832 brought in in 2019. In 2017, the ESD’s first full year with sales tax revenue, it brought in $468,434.
“Our call volume, staffing, and budgets have all increased and with that comes a need to generate additional revenues,” Foster said. “With the desire and planning to open additional stations we must continue to be resourceful and plan for projects such as the additional sale tax election that can produce additional funding and keep those funds serving the Liberty Hill and surrounding community.”
Station 2 opened in 2019 on Ronald Reagan Boulevard, just north of SH 29.
The department is knee-deep in the planning for Station 3 which will be on the western end of the coverage area. That land has been purchased, and Chief Anthony Lincoln estimated previously it will cost about $1.4 million per year in additional funds to operate the new station once it is open.
That estimate includes debt service on land and construction, staffing and operating expenses.
After ESD Commissioners voted to call the election, Lincoln said the outcome of the proposition vote will play a role in how fast the ESD moves forward with Station 3. If it passes he anticipates construction to be on a one to three-year plan, and if not likely more like a three to five-year plan.