With growth imminent in Grimes County, a group of Grimes County community members are exploring the potential of proposing a second Emergency Services District (ESD) be placed on the November 2022 General Election ballot.
Grimes County currently has one ESD, Grimes County ESD #1, that was established over 30 years ago. The ESD serves an area within the Iola Independent School District. Find out more about GC ESD #1 at www. grimescountyesd1.org.
The community members (who have asked not to be named) are having a legal petition drawn up by a lawyer and have said they will release details of the petition once it is ready for signatures.
A preliminary petition suggests Grimes County ESD #2 would cover remaining portions of Grimes County excluding areas covered by Grimes County ESD #1 and the City of Navasota which already has an established fire department funded by The City.
What is an ESD?
ESDs are defined as political subdivisions of the State of Texas, which may support or provide local emergency services, including emergency medical services, emergency ambulance services, rural fire prevention and control services, and other emergency services authorized by the Texas Legislature. ESDs may impose a sales and use tax and/or property tax to support or provide these services. In addition to other powers, an ESD may also own real or personal property, enter into contracts, employs officer, agents, and employees, accept donations, adopt and enforce a fire code, and provide a fire marshal.
ESD tax revenues may be used to hire fulltime emergency personnel, contract with otherentities that have fulltime fire and emergency medical departments, and/or purchase newequipment and facilities. More importantly for some areas, ESDs can contract withvolunteer fire and emergency medical services departments and provide a stable fundingsource for these entities as well. ESD tax revenues mean more time to focus on training andthe provision of emergency services rather than fundraising and other activities for thesevolunteer fire and emergency medical services organizations. Through these powers andstable funding, established ESDs have considerably reduced fire and medical response times,provided stable funding for volunteer and other fire and EMS departments, and allowed localentities to provide enhanced services thus saving lives, property, and funds for localcitizens.
Frequently asked questions from www.safe-d.org How are ESDs created?
ESDs are crated through a “grassroots” effort: A petition signed by at least 100 voters in the proposed district must be presented to the County Commissioners Court in the county (or counties) in which the ESD is intended to exist.
If the ESD is deemed feasible and necessary by the Commissioners Court, an election is called in which the voters in the proposed District must elect to create the District.
If a majority of the votes are cast in favor of creation, the District is created.
How are ESDs governed?
A board of five commissioners governs ESDs. In most counties in Texas, the County Commissioners Court appoints the commissioners to two-year terms. Commissioners are elected for ESDs in Harris, Orange, and Smith counties, as well as for ESDs that exist in more than one county.
So ESDs are an extension or department of the county’s government? No, they are an independent governmental entity.
Can all ESDs raise their ad valorem tax rate without voter approval as long as it stays under the constitutional cap of 10 cents? Not all. If an ESD is created with a 3-cent ad valorem tax rate, it must receive approval from the voters to go above that rate, no matter how small the raise may be.
Do ESD boards have meetings? By law, ESD boards must meet at least once a month. All meetings are subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act. ESDs must also comply with the Texas Public Information Act concerning open records requests and records retention.
How many ESDs are there in Texas? Currently there are around 300 ESDs in Texas, including seven “multi-county” ESDs.
Do ESDs support only volunteer fire departments? No. While many ESDs contract with or support all-volunteer departments, many others support full career or combination (career and volunteer) departments.
The Examiner spoke with Grimes County Emergency Management Coordinator David Lilly who said he is neither for nor against a proposed ESD, but if there is a way to provide more support to our fire departments then it is worth exploring.