Caldwell County addresses ESD No. 5 issues


Caldwell County

The Caldwell County Commissioners ordered an election on the creation of ESD No. 5 for Tuesday, Nov. 7, in response to a petition circulated by county residents regarding the establishment of a county-wide EMS. This information sheet was created to provide information about the proposed ESD No. 5.

What is an ESD?

An Emergency Services District (ESD) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas established pursuant to Chapter 775 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, similar to a School District, Library District, or Hospital District.

What does an ESD do?

Depending on the ESD’s creation agreement, an ESD can provide fire protection, emergency medical services, or both.

Why form an ESD?

The creation of an ESD provides for funding of local fire, EMS, and other emergency services by generating revenue for those purposes and by spreading financial responsibility beyond one or more governmental entities.

How are ESDs funded?

* ESDs are allowed to levy an ad valorem (property) tax of up to $0.10 per $100 of property valuation according to the Texas Constitution. The ESD’s creation documents establish the district’s initial tax rate of $0.10 or less.

* ESDs may also collect sales tax, provided an election is held for that purpose and voters approve. In Texas, 8.25 percent is the maximum allowed sales tax rate, of which the state collects 6.25 percent, leaving 2 percent available to eligible local jurisdictions, including ESDs. An ESD may collect from .125 percent to 2 percent of the local sales tax rate, depending on availability and subject to voter approval.

*n ESDs are also allowed to bill for services provided, such as emergency medical services or fire protection, if it so chooses.

What is ESD No. 5?

The proposed ESD No. 5, if approved by voters, will operate emergency medical services in Caldwell County by providing EMS response.

Why is creation of ESD No. 5 proposed?

* Beginning in 2015, the City of Lockhart contracted with the Seton Family of Hospitals for EMS services. That contract expires Oct. 1, at Seton’s option, meaning another means of obtaining EMS services is required.

* In response, a group of Caldwell County residents circulated a petition to create a new ESD to provide EMS emergency services for the entire county. After the petition collected the required number of signatures from registered voters/property owners and approval from the consenting municipalities to include the territory within their city limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction, it was presented to the Caldwell County Commissioners.

* The County held a public hearing on the petition, which subsequently led to the Commissioners ordering an election on the creation of ESD No. 5, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Why create ESD No. 5?

* A group of Caldwell County residents gathered enough signatures to require the County order an election to confirm the creation of the district, to provide EMS services.

* The establishment of ESD No. 5 will provide funding of local emergency services and which can enable the ESD to purchase ambulances and hire emergency medical personnel.

How will the proposed ESD No. 5 be funded?

If voters approve the creation of ESD No. 5, the new EMS district will levy up to 10 cents per $100 property valuation tax (the State constitutional maximum) to make a steady stream of revenue available to provide emergency services.

* For example, if your property is valued at $100,000, you will pay $100 annually to the ESD.

* Formula: property value x 0.10/100 = ESD No. 5 tax.

What does the creation of the proposed ESD 5 mean to existing police and fire departments?

ESD No. 5 will provide only emergency medical ambulance services, and associated emergency medical services. Operations for existing ESDs, police and fire departments – including those serving the cities of Luling and Lockhart – will otherwise remain the same. 

How will the creation of ESD No. 5 affect Lockhart’s current EMS?

Because the City’s ambulance services contract with Seton ended on Sept. 30, Lockhart EMS will transition into a department within the City of Lockhart. If voters approve the creation of ESD No. 5, Lockhart EMS will become a part of ESD No. 5, thereby expanding its jurisdiction to cover the entire county.

How will the creation of ESD No. 5 affect Luling’s current EMS?

If approved, ESD No. 5 will cover the same area currently serviced by the Luling EMS. The City has consented to the inclusion of its territory into the proposed ESD No. 5.

Is the proposed ESD No. 5 an extension or department of Caldwell County?

No, it will be an independent government entity, as provided by statute.

Who will be in charge of the proposed ESD No. 5?

In Texas, a board of five commissioners governs each ESD. By statute, the County Commissioners Court will appoint the commissioners to two-year terms.

How will ESD No. 5 maintain accountability and transparency?

*As a governmental entity, proposed ESD No. 5 will be subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Texas Public Information Act, and other laws intended to ensure accountability and transparency. Pursuant to the Texas Health and Safety Code, ESD board members are required to meet at least once a month and to submit an annual report to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

* Financial accountability/transparency:

ESDs are typically required by law to file an audit with their County Commissioners Court by June 1 of each year. If the audit is not filed by Sept. 1, the President and Treasurer of the ESD board are automatically removed from their offices.

* If an ESD meets certain requirements, it may be allowed to file certified financial statements instead of an audit. This exception exists for smaller ESDs that would have difficulty affording an exhaustive audit process.

* Because ESDs are political subdivisions, they must also comply with all Truth-in-Taxation requirements — which requires local taxing units to make taxpayers aware of tax rate proposals and to afford them the opportunity to limit tax increases, as stated in the Texas Constitution.

If voters approve the creation of ESD No. 5, how long will it take for it to be established and operational?

*If creation of the ESD receives voter approval, the appointment of the ESD’s Board of Directors, the setting of its tax rate, the hiring of emergency personnel, and the purchasing of equipment is expected to cause ESD No. 5 to be operational by January 2025.

Can the ESD’s tax rate be frozen?

No. Although Texas homeowners over 65 are entitled to freeze the amount of school taxes they pay, that option applies only to school districts.

Can the ESD 5 Board of Directors grant local option property tax exemptions for homesteads, over 65, and disabled homeowners?

Yes, an ESD Board may collect monies according to its locally enacted policies.


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