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County eyes new taxing districts

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

In an effort to offset skyrocketing costs of providing rural fire protection, many volunteer fire departments across Central Texas are applying to become emergency service districts (ESDs), taxing entities run by a board of directors who levy taxes to provide fire protection. Such emergency service districts have been created

across Hays and Bastrop Counties.
Caldwell County voters will have the chance to decide in May whether two ESDs will be created in Caldwell County.
Members of the Mid-County and McMahan Volunteer Fire Departments have been working for some time to create their ESD. After a public hearing to discuss the matter came before the Caldwell County Commissioners” Court in November, it was tabled due to a typographical error in the boundaries. After the error was corrected, the hearing came quietly back to the Commissioners” Court during their regular meeting on Monday. Only representatives of the volunteer fire departments attended the hearing. No residents were on hand to speak for or against the proposal.
“Emergency service districts are a good idea,” said Mid-County Fire Chief Jerry Doyle at an earlier hearing. “The volunteer fire departments are protecting the citizens, and the citizens so often don”t help to offset those expenses. With an ESD, everyone that gets the service is equally responsible.”
With an ESD, property owners within the district”s boundaries can be taxed up to ten cents per $100 dollars of valuation. Those taxes will be collected by the Caldwell County Appraisal District and administered by a board of directors elected from the membership of the ESD.
With the public hearing process complete, Caldwell County Emergency Service District No. 1, the Mid-County and McMahan areas, will come before the voters during the May 12, 2007 election.
A second ESD, being petitioned for by Chisholm Trail Fire Rescue and the now-defunct Uhland Volunteer Fire Department, will cover more than 117 square miles in northern Caldwell and eastern Hays Counties. The Commissioners will hear public input about the proposed new taxing entity during a public hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 12. They may also set the Caldwell-Hays County Emergency Services District No. 1 for the May 12 Election.
In other election-related news, County Election Coordinator Mary Vicky Gonzales informed the Commissioners on Monday that the county will have to purchase a new centralized scanner before the next election.
ES&S, the contractor which currently programs and services the scanner, will no longer be providing equipment support for the county”s scanners, Gonzales said. The outdated equipment will have to be replaced, at a cost to the county that might range from $4,500 to $42,000, depending on the equipment purchase.
As an alternative to purchasing equipment, Gonzales suggested the county could go to all-electronic voting. However, the Commissioners expressed concern that the county residents might not be ready for that kind of change in such a short time.
Gonzales will research the options available to the County and report back to the Court later in the month.
In other business:
The Commissioners purchased new panic buttons for the adult probation office, the indigent health care office and the DPS driving license department.
They considered updating the county”s personnel policy manual to accommodate for bad weather days. The inclement weather proposal will have the county closed at any time the Lockhart Independent School District closes for inclement weather. However, Commissioners intend to discuss the proposal with representatives of the Luling and Prairie Lea School Districts.
They considered approval of a tour of the Courthouse Clock Tower. The tour will be hosted on Saturday, March 24.
They paid bills in the amount of $191,580.57 including $26,132 for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.

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