JUDGE: Some facts about the Emergency Services District
As we march through Early Voting headed to the Nov. 7 Election Day, I wanted to put out some answers to the most popular questions so far about the proposed Emergency Services District (ESD).
The ESD is governed by Chapter 775 of the State Health and Safety Code and was modified greatly in March of this year. That modification changed some of the basic ways an ESD works and is managed. Some of those changes affected many of the main concerns folks seem to have had as we have made our way through the ESD Town Hall Meetings in the last few weeks. So, I thought I would use my page space this week to address those concerns.
1. The ESD Board will have too much power. In the past, an ESD board of Directors had a rather large amount of power in controlling the ESD. The direction it should move and the budget it would create were determined as the board of directors seemed fit to do.
Today that has changed quite a bit based on the changes to the code. The model now is that the board of directors is more of a manager with the county commissioners’ court having control over the Board of Directors. In essence, the board of directors will set the policy and the budget, but the Commissioners’ Court must approve those. If the commissioners do not approve, then they can send those back to the board and have them changed.
2. The ESD can take over the fire departments. The proposed ESD is specifically created for Emergency Ambulance Services. Any of the local fire departments that want to be in an ESD will need to create their own ESD based on their area of responsibility, not be a part of the county-wide ESD.
For the currently proposed ESD to take over the Milam County Fire departments, then all nine fire departments would independently have to agree to that. If even one of them dissented, then it could not be considered. The more likely scenario would be for some of the smaller Fire Departments to look to create their own ESD based on their areas of responsibility, on their own.
3. How do the tax abatements play into the ESD. The short answer is they don’t. An ESD cannot give an abatement and the abatements the county has given in the last few years would not affect the tax rate that abated industries will have to pay. This means that these industries will have to pay the full amount for the ESD thereby reducing the amount that residents will pay.
Those seem to be the big three questions that get asked. There are more questions and there is uncertainty about the issue. If you have questions, then please ask them.
The Commissioners and I are happy to answer your questions. As I have said, it is not ethical of me as your County Judge to sway anyone one way or the other as to how to vote. My job in this case is to simply put out the facts and let the voters decide; therefore, I ask each of us to take the time to look into the ESD and make an educated decision. The good news is that this is not a long-term, open-ended discussion, but an election that will yield a final result on Nov. 7.