The Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 is also known as the Pflugerville Fire Department. An ongoing funding debate between ESD No. 2 and the City of Pflugerville, however, may result in the department no longer providing first-responder services to city residents.
The Travis County Commissioners Court held its first public meeting to discuss the creation of a new overlay district for ESD No. 2 on Feb. 12. The meeting came one week after Pflugerville City Council voted unanimously to reject a public vote that would have allowed residents to decide whether to fund a new tax district to cover the cost of ESD No. 2's first-responder services.
The Commissioners Court set a March 1 special meeting to allow sufficient public notice prior to voting on the issue.
Representatives of ESD No. 2 and the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association are claiming the state-mandated funding limit for ESDs of 10 cents per $100 of property valuation is insufficient to meet the district's needs. The overlay district, tentatively referred to as Travis County ESD No. 2A, would create a new funding source that ESD officials say would go toward improving first-responder services.
"The 10 cents allowed is not sufficient to the mission of trying to provide fire and emergency services in the district," Pflugerville Fire Chief Ron Moellenberg said. "Call volumes have gone up, and revenues have continued to decline."
Moellenberg stated at previous City Council meetings that the department is being forced to draw from its reserve funds in order to cover the costs of servicing the expanding population within the district.
City of Pflugerville officials, however, are claiming ESD No. 2 is overstating its funding deficit. When City Council voted Feb. 5 to reject the vote over the new district, they also authorized the city's staff to begin researching the feasibility of creating a city-funded first-response service.
"We know if [ESD No.] 2A goes into effect they are going to get 10 cents, and those 10 cents [of taxes] are going to last forever," Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman said. "We believe the city can provide those services for less."
The Travis County Commissioners Court is now tasked with deciding whether to allow a public vote in the unincorporated areas of ESD No. 2 outside of Pflugerville. The city councils of Austin, Round Rock and Hutto have all voted to allow the residents within their respective extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs) to vote on the creation of the new funding district. Pflugerville City Council also voted to allow residents within its ETJ to participate in the election.
"The Pflugerville City Council decided for their people," said Kelli Carlton, an attorney representing the PPFA. "They don't have a voice now. The City of Pflugerville did not consent, so now the citizens don't have a dog in the hunt."
Pflugerville City Attorney George Hyde argued against the Commissioners Court allowing the public vote in the areas outside of Pflugerville based on discrepancies his staff had found in the PPFA's election petition. Hyde also said Pflugerville residents had previously voted for the creation of ESD No. 2 with its accompanying tax burden for the purpose of being provided fire and first response services.
"The city is paying right now for those services, and we feel like they are being taken away with the creation of the overlay," Hyde said.