To help meet the needs of the Cypress Creek Fire Department in 2023-24, Harris County Emergency Services District No. 13 is holding a tax rate election this November.

Voters will decide whether the district will maintain its tax rate of $0.091852 per $100 valuation or if the tax rate will be lowered due to legislative mandates.

The election will be held Nov. 7 with early voting from Oct. 23-Nov. 3. Oct. 10 is the last day Harris County residents can register to vote.

Did you know?

In 2019, the passage of Senate Bill 2 reformed the state’s property tax system by limiting year-over-year revenue growth for taxing entities. Taxing entities anticipating more than 3.5% revenue growth year over year must either lower the property tax rate or hold an election so voters can approve a tax rate that would result in revenue growth above 3.5%.

“The ESD has set the tax rate at the same rate it was last year, so we're not looking for a rate increase,” CCFD Chief Richard Lieder said. “We're looking just to hold the rate steady, and because that rate brings in more than 3.5% additional revenue, that requires us to hold the tax rate election.”

Lieder said when SB 2 was passed in 2019, the new guidance wasn’t a significant issue because inflation was less than 3.5%. However, since the start of the pandemic, inflation has become a bigger concern.

Some context

ESD 13’s tax rate has decreased as property appraisals have risen over the past few years, so this will be the district’s first tax rate election because of SB 2. Staffing and equipment costs for the fire department have risen considerably since 2019, but despite that, Lieder said the department has increased staffing and improved service during that time.

For example, the ESD purchased an $814,000 engine when it opened a new station in 2020, and that same engine would cost $1.3 million this year. If the tax rate election fails, he said the recommended replacement schedule for certain safety equipment might need to be delayed.

Additionally, staff received an 8% cost-of-living adjustment in 2022, followed by a 5% adjustment in 2023.

“We've been very fortunate that our salary and benefits are very competitive with the surrounding fire departments,” Lieder said. “If we start falling behind in that, ... it'll affect our ability to retain and recruit the talent we need.”

By the numbers
  • ESD 13’s tax rate is $0.091852 per $100 valuation, and voters are deciding if they want to keep this rate the same.
  • This would cost the average homeowner an additional $24 more per year in property taxes and would bring in $705,000 in additional revenue for the district.
  • If the tax rate election fails, the new tax rate would be $0.085 per $100 valuation.
  • The budget for fiscal year 2023-24 is about $15.1 million but is subject to change based on the election’s outcome.
  • About 75%-80% of the district’s budget goes toward payroll for the staff of 160.
  • The election will cost the district $125,000.
Quote of note

“We really try to be good stewards of the taxpayer money. We run a very lean operation. Every time we look at a project, we always try to think, ‘How does this project impact our ability to provide customer service?’” Lieder said. “We’re cognizant that we are asking them to spend a little more money. It's $24 a year; that's not a big ask, but that will help us continue to fund and improve the fire service that we do.”