Pflugerville ratifies lawsuit blocking ESD 17 annexation election

Pflugerville City Council, pictured above during a July virtual meeting, voted to move forward with litigation protecting its jurisdictional boundaries from ESD 17 expansion. (Screenshot courtesy city of Pflugerville)
Pflugerville City Council, pictured above during a July virtual meeting, voted to move forward with litigation protecting its jurisdictional boundaries from ESD 17 expansion. (Screenshot courtesy city of Pflugerville)

Pflugerville City Council, pictured above during a July virtual meeting, voted to move forward with litigation protecting its jurisdictional boundaries from ESD 17 expansion. (Screenshot courtesy city of Pflugerville)

Pflugerville officials have made further moves to block a November election that would see voters decide if they want to annex the city and portions of its extraterritorial jurisdiction into the taxing and service boundaries of a newly created emergency services district.

During a special called meeting Aug. 18, City Council approved a resolution to ratify litigation filed Aug. 11 protecting the city and its ETJ from being annexed by Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17, an overlay district created by ESD 2, which services the city for fire response and emergency medical services.

City staff said more information on next steps, as well as a statement from Pflugerville officials, will be forthcoming.

The move from council came two days after ESD 17 voted to initiate a multipart November election to expand its services into Pflugerville and its ETJ.

Howard Katz, legal council for ESD 17, on Aug. 16 said the district was able to initiate the expansion election without consent from Pflugerville City Council because ESD 17 has already been created—a rule he said comes from chapter 775 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

Should Pflugerville's litigation prove unsuccessful, the Nov. 2 election will involve three groups of residents: those living in Pflugerville, those living in its ETJ and those living in the boundaries of ESD 17, which mainly includes residents of the North Austin Wells Branch community.

Katz said Residents of ESD 17 will be able to vote for or against annexation of the ETJ as well as the city.

However, if residents of Pflugerville vote against the expansion, then the vote from ESD 17 residents will be nullified, and the same goes for residents of the ETJ, giving residents of each portion being considered for annexation control of their own destinies.

Representatives for ESD 2 issued a news release Aug. 13 stating that even though ESD 17 will not start collecting tax dollars until January, economic projections show its financial need to be at $0.045 per $100 of property valuation, amounting to $120 annually for a property valued at $300,000.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 11 by the city of Pflugerville, and Katz said a judge denied the city's request Aug. 12 for a temporary restraining order on ESD 17 calling for the November election.

"That doesn't mean the case is over; it just means the [temporary restraining order] was denied," Katz said Aug. 19. "It's going to be like any other case. There will likely be some discovery and depositions."

While in attendance at the Aug. 16 ESD 17 meeting, Pflugerville City Council Member David Rogers said he is disappointed that the district, in conjunction with ESD 2, is moving forward with the expansion effort.

"We believe it is illegal," Rogers said. "I have to say I am stunned to find a government agency anywhere in the United States, but much less in Texas, that has demonstrated this level of duplicity, mendacity and efforts to mislead other government officials."

The city of Pflugerville has tried to negotiate with ESDs 2 and 17 in good faith, but those efforts have not been reciprocated, Rogers said.

The lawsuit from the city comes as yet another move in an overarching strategy by Pflugerville officials to seek more autonomy with regard to its emergency services.

ESD 2 provides fire and rescue, EMS and advanced life support, or ALS, services to Pflugerville, the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction, parts of the city of Austin and unincorporated Travis County.

As part of a May 1 election, residents in parts of Austin and unincorporated Travis County voted to add an overlay, or additional, district called ESD 17 within the ESD 2 boundaries. This decision means ESD 17 will have a separate property tax rate to fund staffing and equipment that will provide first response EMS and ALS in the parts of Austin and unincorporated Travis County within the ESD 2 area.

Pflugerville City Council decided to not include the ESD 17 proposition on the city’s ballot.

Amid all of that activity, the board of commissioners for ESD 2 stated that due to funding issues it will no longer be able to provide EMS and ALS along with fire and rescue services to Pflugerville after Sept. 30, but in July extended that deadline to Jan. 1.

In June, Pflugerville City Council received a report from independent firm AP Triton, which concluded ESD 2 does not need a $2.78 million annual stipend from the city to continue providing EMS and ALS services.

ESD 2 commissioners later said the report from AP Triton was not entirely accurate and maintained the annual subsidy is still needed to maintain services to the city.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.


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