For the past year and a half Hutto Fire Rescue sat on its recently collected sales tax funds as it rounded out how much money it could reasonably budget for its next station, according Chief Scott Kerwood.
“We had no idea what we were going to get,” Kerwood said.
In 2016 the state of Texas told the fire station that it could reasonably expect to collect $100,000 a year from its voter-approved 2 percent sales tax. By the end of its 2016-17 fiscal year Hutto Fire Rescue’s sales tax revenues were revealed.
Hutto Fire Rescue, also known as Williamson County Emergency Services District 3, had collected $1.9 million in sales taxes, according to the district’s audits.
“The state was a little off in their calculations,” Kerwood said.
Now with its coffers reinforced by two years of sales tax revenues, Hutto Fire Rescue is set to break ground on its second fire station. According to Kerwood, this station is specifically designed to serve the needs of the southern half of the city of Hutto and portions of southeastern Williamson County.
“The objective of getting this fire station was getting us emergency units stationed on the south side of the railroad tracks,” Kerwood said, referring to the rail line that runs parallel to Hwy. 79.
Hutto Fire Rescue will situate its second station on Swindoll Lane off FM 1660 in the southern end of Hutto city limits. The district purchased approximately 3.4 acres of land and expects to break ground on the station before the end of August. Kerwood said stations typically take 18 months to construct.
The district’s new station will be nearly identical in size to Hutto Fire Rescue’s station off Exchange Boulevard, featuring three bays inside 12,000 square feet of space. Four firefighters will work out of the station at all times and Williamson County emergency services will house an ambulance and two paramedics in the station at all times.
Hutto Fire Rescue experiences a steady 20 percent increase in emergency calls year-over-year, Kerwood said.
In anticipation of Hutto Fire Rescue’s increased workload the ESD 3 board voted to put a proposition for a 2 percent sales tax on the November 2016 election ballot. The resolution passed with approximately 60 percent of the vote.
The voter-approved tax only collects taxes on sales made outside of Hutto city limits or on developments that have special agreements with the city, such as the H-E-B Plus grocery store off Gattis School Road.
Ultimately the district collected nearly $2 million in sales taxes from October 2016 to September 2017. Hutto Fire Rescue projects to collect $1.78 million by September. Taking last year’s collection into account, that is likely a conservative figure. The fire rescue district also collects 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the maximum amount allowed by Texas law.
Hutto Fire Rescue collected $2,343,121 in property tax in its 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the district’s annual audit.
Kerwood estimates that it takes $3.5 million to $4.5 million to build a new fire station, and that includes real property, legal fees, staffing, fire trucks, equipment and construction costs.
In addition to the new station breaking ground this summer, Hutto Fire Rescue has four other stations planned to serve the district’s full build-out, per the fire chief.
Williamson County ESD 3 is looking to close on property on Chris Kelley Boulevard near SH 130 sometime in the next six months, according to Kerwood, and the district has an interlocal agreement with Hutto ISD on property near the Siena subdivision.