On the ballot: A 1 cent sales tax hike for Travis County Emergency Services District No. 4
Background: Travis County’s Emergency Services District No. 4, which provides fire and first-responder service to unincorporated areas mostly to the east but also north and west of Austin, is asking to raise its sales tax collection in areas that don’t currently charge the state-mandated maximum of 8.25 cents per dollar. The state collects 6.25 cents of sales tax on all purchases and local governments, including the ESD, cities and Capital Metro, can charge a portion of 2 cents. The ESD has collected 1 cent throughout the district since 2001 and Cap Metro collects another penny in almost all the parts of the district west of Interstate 35. The 1 cent increase would apply to neighborhoods such as Austin’s Colony Walnut Place. From November 2012 to October, the district collected $967,350 in sales taxes and Fire Chief Flo Soliz said increasing the rate from 1 to 2 cents in the eastern areas will bring in at least $250,000 more per year. Without identifying specific expenditures, Soliz said the district plans to use the money to hire additional firefighters and equipment to get closer to reaching the four-firefighters-per-engine standard the Austin Fire Department recently adopted. ESD 4 currently staffs three firefighters per engine.
Supporters say: The tax will not burden local homeowners but rather anyone who makes a purchase in the district, and will provide better fire service.
Critics say: The measure has not generated any organized opposition.
– Farzad Mashhood, American-Statesman