Election 2021 – Proposition A – To create Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Election 2021 – Proposition A – To create Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17

After a petition with approximately 4,700 signatures was submitted to the Travis County Commissioners Court, the Court voted unanimously to call an election for the creation of a new emergency services district (ESD), to be known as Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17 (ESD17). ESD17 would provide funding for emergency medical services (EMS) to include advanced life support (ALS) and transport services. The election is scheduled for May 1, 2021.
The new ESD17, as contemplated, would provide emergency medical services in Northeast Travis County, including Northtown and Wells Branch through an agreement with Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2). This would allow a seamless continuation of services to residents already receiving these services from ESD2.
ESD2, which has been providing these services out of its existing fire department budget, identified and communicated a projected funding shortfall beginning in fiscal year 2024. A pro forma analysis illustrated the need for an additional approximately 6 cents per $100 of assessed property value in ad valorem taxes in order for ESD2 to maintain the current level of service of ALS and EMS transport services.
The creation of ESD 17 and subsequent contract between the two emergency services districts would provide the needed funding for ESD2 to continue to provide ALS and EMS transport services. If the May 1st election fails, alternate plans will have to be pursued, including the reduction or elimination of ALS and EMS transport services by ESD2.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: What is the vote for?

A: In the May 1st election, voters will decide whether to create a new emergency services district (ESD), Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17 (ESD 17) to fund ALS and EMS transport service. In a unanimous vote after a petition by more than 4,700 citizens was received, the Travis County Commissioners Court called the election.

2. Q: What is an emergency services district?

A: An emergency services district (ESD) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas, like a city, school district or municipal utility district. It can provide fire protection or emergency medical response. An ESD can levy a tax on property up to 10 cents per $100 of property value. An ESD’s constitutional property tax rate ceiling is lower than most other local governments.

3. Q: What services will the new ESD provide?

A: ESD 17 would provide funding for advanced life support and ambulance transport within its jurisdiction.

4. Q: Where is ESD17’s jurisdiction?

A: ESD 17 includes the areas of the City of Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), including Wells Branch Municipal Utility District and Northtown Municipal Utility District, that are within the existing Travis County ESD No. 2. That’s the largest portion of the new ESD. It will also include the ETJs of the City of Manor and the City of Taylor that are within ESD 2. Only voters in those areas will vote on the creation of ESD No. 17. The City of Pflugerville and its ETJ are not included in the proposed ESD 17. The Pflugerville City Council did not allow voters in those areas the opportunity to cast ballots, so they are not included in the proposed district.

ESD17 Service Area Map:

5. Q: What will this do to my property taxes?

A: Under the state constitution, the maximum tax an ESD can levy is 10 cents per $100 of assessed value. If voters approve ESD 17, property owners in the new district will see an increase in their property taxes. Current projections show that ESD 17 would need to levy a tax of 6.5 cents per $100 of value to maintain the current level of advanced life support and ambulance transport they receive now. At that rate, on a home on the tax rolls at $300,000 in value, the owner would see an increase of approximately $195 per year or a little more than $16 per month. Ultimately, the actual rate would be set by the new ESD’s Board of Commissioners.

6. Q: What happens to ESD 2 if ESD 17 is created?

A: ESD 2 will continue to provide fire protection and basic emergency medical response within its current jurisdiction, however, it would only legally be allowed to provide ALS and ambulance service to ESD 17’s jurisdiction.

7. Q: Why can’t ESD 2 continue to provide the services proposed for ESD 17?

A: ESD 2 is facing financial challenges as it attempts to keep up with rapid growth in its area. Projections show that with the increased expenses required to keep up with growth, ESD 2 will deplete its financial reserves by 2024.
Since 2017, the District has provided ambulance transport and advanced life support (ALS) to its citizens, but, with increased costs and demand, ESD 2 is approaching the point where it can no longer sustain two services – a fire department and an ALS ambulance service –
on the resources available to one emergency services district. For more information, see this link.

8. Q: Won’t sales tax cover the needs?

A: ESD 2 has seen a slight increase in sales tax revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many believe that’s because the restrictions on consumer activity forced more people to shop online. That effectively made every home in ESD 2 a retail store. Will that continue after restrictions are fully lifted and consumers can return to crowded shopping areas – like The Domain or Lakeline Mall – where the City of Austin collects all the locally available sales tax? Until that question is answered, prudent financial management requires that ESD 2 must prepare as if its sales tax revenues will return to pre-COVID levels.

9. Q: Who will be in charge of the new ESD?

A: By law, the Travis County Commissioners Court will appoint five ESD 17 commissioners to oversee the new district. They must be 18 years old or older and be registered voters or property owners in the district. They serve staggered two-year terms. The new ESD commissioners are required to receive six hours of training in the efficient operation of emergency services districts every two years. The ESD Board of Commissioners determines how to provide the services that voters expected when they created the district. It sets the budget based on the needs of the district and sets the tax rate. ESD commissioners are not salaried, although they can receive fees for serving up to $150 per day, not to exceed $7,200 per year.
By law, to provide coordination between two overlaying ESDs, an ESD commissioner in one district can be appointed to serve on the overlaying district’s Board of Commissioners, but such ESD commissioners can only receive fees from one district. In the case of ESD 2 and the proposed ESD 17, only one current commissioner would qualify to serve on both ESD boards.

10. Q: What happens if voters reject the new ESD 17?

A: ESD 2 will continue to provide the two services – fire protection and ALS ambulance transport – as long as it can, but, ultimately, that model is not sustainable, given current financial limits on emergency services districts. Eventually, ESD 2 will need to pursue alternate plans including the reduction or elimination of ALS and ambulance services.

11. Q: Why are response times important?

A: Minutes count in an emergency. The chances of survival of a heart attack drop seven to ten percent every minute. Within four to six minutes, permanent brain damage can occur, and the patient can die.

12. Q: Can’t Austin/Travis County EMS provide ambulances, like it did before 2017?

A: It is conceivable that Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services could resume ambulance service within ESD 2, but ATCEMS costs per ambulance are roughly double ESD 2’s. So it’s doubtful that ATCEMS could match the five ESD 2 ambulances staffed 24/7 that are currently available to district residents. Without additional revenues then, ESD 2 residents will lose their current level of ALS and ambulance transport services.

Early Voting in Person
Monday, April 19 – Tuesday, April 27

Locations: https://countyclerk.traviscountytx.gov/elections/current-election.html

Election Day
7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1

Locations: https://countyclerk.traviscountytx.gov/elections/current-election.html