“The call was interminable," Lucas said. "The wait was horrendous.”
Lucas has lived in Pflugerville for more than 30 years and has served as a volunteer with emergency medical services providing care for Pflugerville's city residents and extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. As conversations have risen regarding a lack of funding for Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 and the proposal of a second emergency services district overlay, Lucas said the call for increased emergency services should not even be a question.
“I can’t begin to understand why having our own ambulances in our district—having paramedics arriving on scene in just a few short minutes—is even a question here," Lucas said. "How can you not allow the best possible medical response to be available to our citizens?”
Several Pflugerville city and ETJ residents spoke out at Pflugerville City Council's Nov. 24 meeting to voice concerns they had with funding shortfalls at the Pflugerville Fire Department, which is overseen by ESD 2.
Financial projections released by the department this summer anticipate a continued depletion in the department's reserves from now until fiscal year 2023-24.
ESD 2 took on emergency medical services—such as advanced life support, transport services and first response services—alongside its fire services in 2017, following a contractual agreement with Austin-Travis County EMS for their ambulances.
However, in a Nov. 13 letter to Pflugerville City Council, the Pflugerville Fire Department said it might have to discontinue emergency ambulance services and advanced life support if additional funding is not made available. More than 4,700 voters and property owners within the Travis County service area have signed a petition to include consideration of a new emergency district proposal on the May 2021 election ballot.
Pflugerville resident Blake Brown said concerns regarding EMS services should not be placed on the back burner and questioned whether council was concerned about the lack of funding. In a written comment submitted to council, Brown said the decision should ultimately be made by voters.
“Something like EMS should be talked about now and brought to the attention and the voting ballot of the current citizens," Brown said. "To allow citizens to vote on the current topic is to allow them to have a say in how their tax dollars are spent and how their loved ones are cared for.”
Karen and Ron Cunningham, both Pflugerville residents, said the decision regarding a new district overlay will impact both residents within city limits and the ETJ. While ETJ residents cannot vote for council members, Karen Cunningham said an election allows them greater agency in making decisions that impact their safety and day-to-day life.
Resident Anthony Nguyen said similar financial projections were floated in 2013 by the ESD that never came to fruition.
"Those financial concerns never materialized," Nguyen said.
He said property taxes and valuations have increased for residents in the years since, and an additional district overlay would only add financial strain to Pflugerville residents. Senate Bill 2, signed into law in June 2019, limits how much a taxing entity can increase property tax revenue to 3.5% from the previous year before voter approval is required in the form of an election. Nguyen said if the department needs more financial assistance, it could call for an election to increase property tax revenues above the 3.5% threshold, without involving council.
Trevor Stokes, a representative of the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association, said the issue regarding EMS services has been an ongoing concern for the better part of a decade. Stokes said adequate EMS services cost money, and as the city's population has expanded, so, too, has its need for additional services.
If the May 2021 election is not a good time for this to be considered on the ballot, Stokes asked council when that time would come.
“If the city feels it’s in a corner, it’s in a corner they chose to be in by not taking action, but instead hoping things would work out," Stokes said.