WCESD approves budget, proposes tax rate


By Christine Bolaños

Commissioners of Williamson County ESD #4 will hold a special meeting to discuss a new sales tax on Monday, August 17. This comes after months of waiting on the part of the ESD to hear about a contract to run a political campaign for a sales tax election in November.

Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln said in order to meet the August 24 deadline, the meeting has to be held next Monday.

The ESD earmarked $30,000 last summer for the campaign. If voters approve the sales tax, which will likely appear on the November General Election ballot, Lincoln estimates the ESD will begin to see revenue from that in three-quarters of a year to a full year.

That revenue would help support operations of a second fire station, which local emergency responders say is necessary to meet service demands amid a growing population.

Of the 8.25 percent sales tax, the state collects 6.25 percent. On sales made within the City of Liberty Hill, the City keeps 1 cent for its General Fund, 1/4 cent for its Street Maintenance Fund, 1/4 cent for the Liberty Hill Public Library and 1/2 cent for the Economic Development Corp.

Projections from last year showed that if voters in the fire district approve the sales tax for the ESD, it could earn $300,000 in revenue from tax outside the city limits. Commissioners plan to discuss the sales tax more in depth on Monday.

Prior to setting the August 17 special meeting, Commissioners unanimously proposed to adopt a tax rate of $0.10 per $100 property value for the 2015-16 annual operating budget for the ESD. They also adopted the 2015-16 annual operating budget and officially set public hearing dates, times and locations. The votes gives the ESD the green light to print the information as proposed in The Independent, the newspaper of record.

“I think it’s one step forward in trying to tackle some of the growth issues. That’s what this budget is — one more step toward improving our services and our staff and keeping us a balanced budget,” Lincoln said.

Commissioners expressed gratitude for the way the Fire Chief presented the information to them at the last meeting. At the 10 cent tax rate, which is the cap for the ESD, there is a projected $1,891,834.36 in property tax revenue and services revenue of $9,800 for total revenue of $1,901,634.36. This is up $269,327.40 from last year’s numbers.

The proposed Maintenance and Operations budget is $1,834,612, which is $67,021.78 less than the projected revenue. This is an increase of $231,891.58 over the current fiscal year.

The budget includes plans for firefighter physicals, a new command vehicle and three additional full-time firefighters pending whether the ESD is granted a SAFER grant.

The August 17 meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Hill Fire Station, 301 Loop 332.

The public hearings on the tax rate are planned for August 24 and August 31. The meeting to adopt the tax rate will be held Sept. 8. The taxing unit must adopt the tax rate by Sept. 15.

Commissioners agreed to also have its general meeting for the month on Sept. 8.