Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional context. The story previously stated Stertzel's proposal would have saved taxpayers $36 per month, but it would have saved them $36 per year.

Residents of Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9, which supports the Cy-Fair Fire Department, won’t see significant changes in their property tax payments to the district next year as commissioners adopted the no-new-revenue tax rate to support the 2023-24 budget. District documents report an estimated $18.70 in annual savings for the average owner of a $350,000 home.

The rate of $0.04436 per $100 valuation was approved 4-1 at a Sept. 26 meeting with Commissioner Kevin Stertzel voting against it. It will yield $27.3 million for the district.

Long story short

The approved rate has decreased from the current rate of $0.049984 per $100 valuation, but Stertzel advocated for an even lower rate that would have saved taxpayers an additional $36 annually, according to commissioners.

“My proposal instead would be to return $3 million to the taxpayers from the windfall that we’ve received from investment income. In 2023, we moved over $100 million into interest-bearing funds. It’s a windfall for us. It’s essentially found money, and what I’m proposing to do is share 50% of that back with the taxpayers whose money it is. It’s their money we’re investing,” Stertzel said at the Sept. 26 meeting.

Officials said this was not new money; the district had already planned to receive those funds. Additionally, because the money wasn't interest-bearing until June, the return to taxpayers for this year would only have been about $1.5 million.

Commissioner Rob Paiva agreed with Stertzel, although he ultimately voted for the no-new-revenue rate with the majority of commissioners.

“Very rarely, if ever, does a taxpayer get a penny ever returned to them. ... it’s kind of what it is. It really is pennies on the dollars of what’s coming back. And to do something like that would have a huge potential public relations opportunity for this fire department and this district to be able to take advantage of,” Paiva said.

Some context

The vote came days after consultants from Citygate Associates laid out a five-year plan for the fire department that states officials need to build three new fire stations in the developed parts of the district and five new stations in the soon-to-be developed areas.

Commissioners decided to go with the no-new-revenue tax rate, which means the rate will bring in the same amount of revenue next year as the previous year with a lower rate. A lower rate could put the department’s ability to meet the community’s needs in jeopardy, Commissioner Bevin Gordon said.

“Yes those costs are important for our taxpayers, but loss of life, loss of property—all of the things that this department prevents—is worth far more than $3 a month,” Gordon said. “And as a person who lives in this community ... I value having the highest quality public safety organization in the state, maybe in the nation.”

Quote of note

“Cy-Fair firefighters deliver excellent service, we’re good stewards of community resources and we give back. We’re grateful for the support of the commissioners that want to keep our fire department strong,” said Chris Fillmore, president of the Cy-Fair Professional Firefighters Association, in a news release. “With booming growth in the Cy-Fair area, we must keep pace and continue to provide life-serving fire and EMS services consistent with national safety standards.”