Texas FFs' petition for new emergency services district gains 4,700 signatures
The Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association said the new district is necessary due to call volumes nearly doubling over the past year
PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition from the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association to create a new emergency services district to support EMS services in northeastern Travis County, officials said.
"We were hoping to get maybe 1,000 signatures, and the voters and property owners spoke in force by saying they get it," said Josh Stubblefield, president of the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association.
On Sept. 11, the firefighters announced the formation of "Keep Pfire-EMS Strong," a political action committee formed to push for the creation of Emergency Service District No. 17.
The new district would overlay the exact boundaries of ESD No. 2. Taxes raised from ESD No. 17 would go toward paying for EMS service for the area, while ESD No. 2 taxes would go to the Fire Department.
"We asked for the support of our citizens to begin the process so we can continue to do our jobs of saving lives here at home," Stubblefield said.
State law required the association to gather a minimum of 100 property owner signatures to begin the election process, according to a Oct. 7 news release from the firefighters association. It said the petition was signed by 4,700 people, more than half being property owners.
"We are humbled by the outpouring of support from our community," Stubblefield said.
The department provides both fire and EMS services, but said it cannot maintain the increased need in EMS calls due to funding shortfalls. Over the past year, the department has seen its call volume nearly double.
"In August, we ran almost 1,000 calls in a month," Stubblefield said. "That's the highest call volume in a month in the history of our department."
Stubblefield said the increased calls are the result of rapid growth in the area, which has also affected response times.
"With our fast-growing population, we are falling behind on our ability to provide enough ambulances and staff to serve the growing area and maintain fire protection as well," Stubblefield said.
The Pflugerville Fire Department voiced its funding concerns to the Pflugerville City Council during a virtual town hall meeting on Sept. 29.
"We want to make sure our city is cared for appropriately," April Griffin, assistant board treasurer of the Pflugerville Fire Department, said at the town hall. "We want to be able to have our citizens get the best."
State law says that ESDs can be funded with no more than $0.10 per $100 valuation of property taxes. The same property tax rate stipulation would apply to ESD No. 17, if approved. Based on the average taxable value of a property within ESD No. 2, currently listed at $263,209, that fund increase would raise the tax bill for an average homeowner by about $15 per month.
The Travis County Commissioners Court must receive the petition and begin the process for calling the election for May 2021. Cities in ESD No. 17, including a third of the city of Pflugerville, parts of Round Rock, Hutto and Taylor must pass a resolution to allow their residents, who are already part of ESD No. 2, to be allowed to vote in the election to create ESD No. 17, per the release.
"The citizens understand we cannot continue to fund the fire protection, EMS and ambulance services based on a funding model created nearly 30 years ago," Stubblefield said.
In the 1990s, Travis County voters approved the formation of Travis County ESD 2, which encompasses 80 square miles in the northeastern portion of the county. The service area includes more than 140,000 residents and receives more than 10,000 911 calls each year, the district said.
Stubblefield said he hopes the association will receive the same amount of support when it comes time to vote in May 2021.
"This is one of the fastest-growing areas along (Texas) 130 and the demand for our services continues to grow," Stubblefield said.
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