Sales tax election on tap for WCESD#4
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The May local elections are not limited to school board and city council candidates and issues as Williamson County ESD #4 will also have a measure on the ballot seeking to claim an additional three-quarters of a cent in sales tax revenues.
The election has been called by ESD Commissioners, and will be decided by voters May 1.
The Emergency Services District currently receives one cent of sales tax revenue 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.
“We don’t get anything in the city limits,” said ESD Chief Anthony Lincoln. “We don’t get that because it was already in place for them.”
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.
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 Lincoln estimates 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.
The ESD brings in a majority of its revenues in property and sales tax. In 2020, with the one-cent allocation the ESD generated $1.28 million in sales tax revenues.
In the first full year – 2016 – the revenue was $193,195 for the District. It more than doubled in 2017, grew by $175,000 in 2018, and topped $800,000 in 2019.
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.
Lincoln said he hasn’t finalized the report for the 2020 call volume but he knows the department surpassed 2,000 annual calls for the first time. It is roughly a 10 percent increase over the 1,800 calls responded to the previous year.
“We’ve been on a pretty good growth pattern,” Lincoln said. “This was a strange year, too. I think had (the pandemic) not come along it might have been higher. Much of the time there was less traffic on the road so our motor vehicle accidents slowed down. Our call volume may have been even higher.”
Firefighters and staff at ESD #4, like those in other departments throughout the county, were among the first authorized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when the first doses arrived in Williamson County.
“We all got to go in the first round for Williamson County,” Lincoln said. “We are coming up on the second round next week.”
The vaccine is not required, and Lincoln said he doesn’t know exactly who did or didn’t get the vaccine due to health privacy laws.
“I encouraged them to get it because it hasn’t gone away whatsoever for us,” he said. “We’re running into it as much now as ever. It is still prevalent out there and still scary, too. Every day we have something like somebody was working and was exposed to somebody else and ultimately end up here.”
At one point in the fall the ESD had six people out quarantined at one time, forcing a lot of schedule shuffling.
“It is a constant ongoing monitoring situation for us,” Lincoln said. “That’s half a shift for us. We were able to back fill with other guys stepping up through overtime. We didn’t have to reach out to any outside agencies.”
Lincoln believes there is a concerted effort by firefighters to be more cautious under the current situation.
“I’m more secluded,” he said of his own situation. “Not that I’m a homebody, but I kind of watch where I go. I would like to think (our firefighters) pay attention to stuff like that, and maybe they’re not as outgoing as they normally would be.”
What he repeats to his own firefighters is that the pandemic is far from over.
“It isn’t over by any means,” Lincoln said. “It’s going to take a lot more shots before this gets better.”