Gary Vincent, Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department chief, said March 31 an election to increase the sales tax rate by $0.01 within Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10 boundaries has been postponed from May 2 to Nov. 3 after the ESD board of commissioners held an emergency meeting March 30. Commissioners voted to postpone the election to November "out of an abundance of caution," Vincent said, after the presidential coronavirus guidelines were extended through April 30 in late March.
Posted March 30
The May 2 ballot will include a proposition asking voters in Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10 to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase in parts of the district to support growth in the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department, which is funded by ESD No. 10, Magnolia Fire Chief Gary Vincent said.
The state of Texas caps sales tax at 8.25%, or $0.0825, per dollar, with 6.25 cents of every dollar spent going to the state and the remaining 2 cents up for local entities to claim, Vincent said.
The 1-cent sales tax increase on the ballot would be imposed in unincorporated areas of ESD No. 10 not yet at the 2-cent cap.
Businesses in the city of Magnolia or Westwood Magnolia Parkway Improvement District, both of which have already reached the 2% cap, will see no change in the sales tax rate, he said.
“If you bought something for a dollar, we’re asking you to give us one penny of the dollar,” Vincent said. “For the folks that are within those areas, like the city of Magnolia and [WMPID], they will get all of the benefit of the increased fire protection but there’s no increase in cost anywhere they shop in those areas.”
ESD 10 currently collects 1% of property tax revenue within its district boundaries, which span much of southwest Montgomery County, as well as 1 cent of every dollar spent, an addition which voters approved in 2014.
Collections of 1% of sales tax revenue contributed about $21 million in sales tax revenue to the district over five years, providing the department its first full-time firefighters, six fire trucks, additional vehicles and construction of three stations, as Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
The proposition on the May 2 ballot calls for sales tax to increase by another 1%, Vincent said, to compensate for increased growth in the area and decreased revenue stemming from Senate Bill 2, which took effect Jan. 1 and which limits how much certain taxing entities can increase property tax revenue from the previous year before voter approval is required.
As such, Vincent said he anticipates ESD No. 10 will see a 4.5% reduction in property tax revenue this year.
“With the decrease in revenue [and] all of the expansion that’s coming, the community not only needs the replacement of the old fire trucks, the new fire stations [and] more firefighters; with everything that we see that’s coming in development, we need a revenue stream to help offset the demand for fire service and EMS service that we provide,” he said.
Vincent said additional sales tax revenue would help the district replace decades-old trucks, build three new stations, add to its full-time staff and build a training facility. He said he anticipates residents would see not only increased fire protection but also savings on insurance, as staffing, age of equipment and proximity to stations all play into a department’s Insurance Services Organization rating, which helps keep insurance premiums low for homeowners and businesses.
“Your insurance cost is one of the biggest things that also drives economic growth and prosperity and new jobs,” he said. “With all of the expansion along Hwy. 249 and the new growth that’s coming, getting this one penny can help us provide fire protection into those areas and attract new businesses and new jobs and new economic growth, which helps everybody.”
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation March 18 allowing political subdivisions, such as special districts, to postpone their May local elections until Nov. 3 as a precautionary measure to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. However, during a special meeting May 23 to consider postponing the ESD No. 10 election, the board of directors unanimously approved proceeding with the May 2 election as directed Feb. 13, according to meeting minutes.
Early voting and election day polling locations are unknown as of this article's publication. However, the board’s preference, according to meeting minutes, is to have MVFD Station No. 181 on Buddy Riley Boulevard serve as the only early voting and election day polling location so that enough poll workers can be supplied.
According to the Texas Secretary of State's Office, residents must register to vote for the May 2 election no later than April 2, and early voting will run from April 20-28.
“There’s approximately 17,000 acres along the new Hwy. 249 roadway expansion for development. It is going to be a challenge for the fire department to provide fire protection to all of that projected growth without the sales tax support,” Vincent said. “This is the future of the fire department.”