Mineral Wells Area News

Palo Pinto ESD #1 Considers Election to Raise Tax Cap

Palo Pinto ESD #1 Considers Election to Raise Tax Cap
August 19
12:04 2022

By David Montgomery/Special Contributor

The Palo Pinto Emergency Service District #1 met this week and voted to adopt a tax rate resolution and levy a tax of .0266843, the highest tax rate they can adopt without an election. The rate was not the reason the board room at ESD #1 was packed with citizens ready to raise their concern for a taxing entity looking to raise a property tax cap.

“[Our cap’s] been at $.03 since the 60’s,” said Carolyn Land, ESD #1 Board Member, addressing the crowd.

The ESD #1 supports ten volunteer fire departments and the Mineral Wells Fire and EMS for a total of eleven departments through ad valorem taxes in Palo Pinto County. They also support the county’s emergency services through communications and insurance coverage. In addition to the support for fire departments, ESD #1 has a sales tax to fund ambulance services for the county.

Emergency Services District Map

On the meetings agenda was an item to consider bringing to the voters an election to raise the tax cap from $.03 to $.06. The max the State of Texas allows any Emergency Service District is $.10

“In order to raise the cap, it takes an election of the people,” said board member Michael Henderson. “That’s really what we’re considering right now. Asking the people to raise the cap for us.”

“After 2011 we’ve known every year, I think, every board that’s been here knows it’s inadequate funding. But it’s never the right time to ask,”continued Henderson. “Maybe this time we just at least ask?”

“If I look at my own personal tax bill every year, I blow a gasket,”said board member Brent Nance. “But I also break down… how much actually goes to the departments it’s this little. Most of it’s all going to school taxes.”

The conversation turned toward the cost associated with calling an election.

“I feel that if we were to try to raise the tax cap it’s gonna be a minimum of $12,000 to $15,000,” said Land, “and that’s just to get it on the ballot.”

“I think we’re throwing good money after bad in terms of an election,”lamented Gary Word, addressing his fellow board members.

“We got one truck that we’ve talked about that will take about $5,000 to $7,000 to get moving again and we’re going to pay more than that to have an election,” he said.

The board seemed to teeter back and forth between the necessity of more funds for their district and the reality of how difficult it is to convince the taxpayers to approve a raise in the cap.

“I look at our equipment across the county, average age, average condition. And I’m like, my God, every department needs a minimum of one new truck this year,” said Word, addressing the crowd.

“There’s gotta be a way where we can begin to fund new equipment.”

$50,000 is the amount that the ESD #1 will give to each of the eleven fire departments in the county in 2023. A rise from the $45,000 in 2022 and $40,200 in 2021.

“That’s a break even point for those departments,” said Word.

Large wild fires in the county over the summer have rendered much of the different fire departments almost helpless at times. At one point, fourteen fire fighting vehicles were inoperable because they were damaged from fire fighting or broken down.

Many of the volunteer fire departments have taken to social media to crowd fund for more financial support to continue paying for equipment repairs.

“The public needs to be educated on what they’re paying taxes on, cause their property value is set by the state,” shouted an attendee to the board.

Word responded, “Help us educate! Tell your neighbor.”

Throughout the discussion the room seemed to begrudgingly accept the difficulty of the situation. The importance of funding the departments was not lost, nor was the disdain to raise taxes. There was great discussion but the room realized they were not going to solve those issues on that day.

The time finally came to vote to raise the tax cap but a motion was not made.

“It’s dying for lack of motion” said Land, informing the board that there are no more opportunities to raise the tax cap this year.

While the tax cap will remain the same, property owners in the county can expect to pay around 3% more to the ESD #1. While the rate is lower than last years, the rise in property valuations caused rates to appear lower but will yield a higher dollar amount for the ESD.

The ESD’s rate adoption comes in contrast to the City of Mineral Wells, whose fire department is a recipient of funds from the ESD #1, which approved a No New Revenue Rate just two days prior.

The entire ESD Board Meeting was provided to Mineral Wells Area News by the PK Lake Reporter.

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