Pflugerville City Council delays decision on new fire dept. taxing district

The Pflugerville City Council voted Jan. 22 to table a decision until its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 5, on whether to allow city residents to vote on the creation of an emergency services overlay district.

At stake is the creation of Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2A, which would likely take over emergency medical services duties from ESD No. 2—also known as the Pflugerville Fire Department—and open up a new source of funding. If voters approved the creation of the overlay district, property taxes for residents within the service areas could increase as much as 10 cents per $100 of valuation.

State laws cap the allowable tax for ESDs at 10 cents, and districts are not required to ask for the full amount.

Pflugerville city leaders, however, have been hesitant to move forward with the potential tax increase without knowing exactly how much of the 10 cent tax would be required to meet fire department needs.

"We feel like we are being put in a box, and we don't know how to get our citizens out," Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman said. "You have to understand that we have everyone and their brother asking us for funding."

Coleman said if the council were to approve all of the expected new tax initiatives being proposed during the next three years, property taxes could rise by 31 cents per $100 of valuation in the city, or $451 annually for the average Pflugerville home.

"We are really debating all of the sides on this," Coleman said.

According to documents provided by ESD No. 2, the fire department is understaffed to meet the demands and call volume of the 100-square-mile area it is assigned to serve. The department claims it was forced to draw $1.1 million from its reserve fund in order to make last year's budget balance.

"What you are hearing from [Kevin Croegaert, Pflugerville Fire Department assistant chief of operations] is that with the continued growth, he is going to have to cut [services] in order to make the budget work," said John Carlton, an attorney representing the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association.

After more than three hours of discussion and public comments, however, the council members felt they were still unprepared to make a decision on the matter and tabled any vote until their next meeting.

"I am a numbers man, and there were quite a few things that didn't quite make sense to me," Councilman Omar Pea said. "Rather than jump into a decision here, I would really like to fully understand it ... and have an honest discussion about it."