If approved by voters, the ballot proposition would redirect one half of one percent of the city's sales tax revenue—or about $1.9 million based on the city's 2019 budget data—from a property tax reduction fund into a new fund for a fire control prevention and emergency medical services district. That money would then be used to support the Jersey Village Fire Department.
The draft budget allocates about $1.93 million in the district's first year with the bulk of money going toward salaries and benefits, according to city documents. Other expenditures include training, gear and equipment.
In fiscal year 2019-20, the city raised about $1.9 million in sales tax revenue for the property tax reduction fund. The Jersey Village Fire Department reported about $1.97 million in expenditures in FY 2019-20 and estimates spending about $2 million this fiscal year.
The main purpose of the new district would be to "provide a dedicated funding source for the Jersey Village Fire Department so it can not only continue to provide excellent service but also help bring the department to a higher level of service," according to city documents.
At a Jan. 18 council meeting, the council unanimously approved a temporary board of directors for the district consisting of the five council members and Bleess.
The concept was first discussed by the Jersey Village City Council in November, when City Manager Austin Bleess said a new state law removed some of the incentives of the city's property tax reduction fund. At the time, officials said the redirection of funds would not result in higher tax bills for residents. Several council members at the Jan. 18 meeting reiterated their commitment to reducing property taxes but said they also wanted to make a stronger investment in fire services.
"I am for lower taxes, but at the same time, it just makes sense to take care of the services that makes us the community that we are," Council Member Greg Holden said. "Citizens move into this community basically because of the services that this community offers, and it is obligatory that we raise the amount of money that is needed to pay for those services."
Before the proposition is placed on ballots, city officials will host a public hearing Feb. 8 to get feedback from residents on the budget and two-year plan.
The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 and will be conducted by livestream. A feed of the stream can be accessed at www.jerseyvillagetx.com/page/city.livestream or by telephone by calling 346-248-7799. Residents can arrange to speak at the hearing by contacting City Secretary Lorri Coody at email@example.com.
If approved, the fire control district would be in place for five years before it would need to be reapproved.
Council members at the Jan. 18 meeting also voted to place a proposition on the May 1 ballot that would continue to direct a portion of sales tax revenue to the Jersey Village Crime Control and Prevention District for five years. The reapproval of the CCPD was bumped up so that both the fire and crime districts could be on the same timeline, City Attorney Justin Pruitt said.
A public hearing held in advance of the CCPD vote did not yield any speakers.