Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District 2 will be implementing a 10 cent per $100 valuation ad valorem tax to provide 24/7 coverage for its residents year-round.
ESD 2, which contracts with the Santo Volunteer Fire and EMS Department, provides service to approximately 90,000 residents in the communities of Santo, Brazos and Lone Camp throughout 150 square miles.
“Volunteer hours and compensation are limited by law and the district and the Santo Volunteer Fire and EMS find themselves at a crossroads on how to maintain and increase coverage,” ESD 2 Board President Hershel Geeo said. “There will be a need to recruit many volunteers, or a paid staff will be required. The district will use the tax revenue to convert to a 24/7/365 coverage for the ESD 2 district.”
Currently the district has paid shift coverage to staff an ambulance three days a week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
ESDs are allowed to levy ad valorem property tax, which most do including Palo Pinto County ESD 1, and all the Parker County ESDs. The Texas Constitution states that ESDs may tax up to $0.10 per $100 valuation. However, if an ESD is established with a $0.3 tax rate, like Palo Pinto County ESD 1, it must receive voter approval to go above the rate no matter how small the raise may be.
“This ad valorem tax affects me, affects all of the board too, but we know what we’re supposed to do here so we’re putting ourselves aside and trying to take care of the citizens here in this district,” Geeo said.
Geeo said there have been many improvements to ESD 2, which includes an expanded station, updated ambulance equipment and an upgrade of its communications tower.
“We’ve ordered a new ambulance and it will be here probably in December and they are expensive, $350,000 for one,” Geeo said. “We have three ambulances now and they’re MCIU units so they can handle everything except surgeries and then we have an FRO, a first responder truck, at Lone Camp. It’s a new truck and it carries the Jaws of Life and all of the instruments. It has been credited with saving four lives.”
The district also purchased a more than 2-acre tract of land off the Interstate 20 access road and U.S. 281 for the construction of an EMS station, which will include a helipad.
ESD 2 also offers free CPR and first aid classes twice a year and will soon begin a partnership with a Palo Pinto General Hospital clinic for health surveys. A large number of ESD 2’s EMS calls, about 43%, occur on I-20 and U.S. 281.
Palo Pinto County ESD 2 was brought into existence by a vote of the residents of the district in November, 2014. The district’s population and businesses have grown since that time and EMS calls for service went from 178 in 2014 to 281 in 2020 — a trend that is expected to continue, according to Geeo.
Ultimately, Geeo said when ESD 2 was established, the board decided not to implement the ad valorem tax immediately and instead only collect sales tax for its revenue. While it has worked for the last seven years, it is not sustainable in the future.
“The most important thing right now is the implementation of the ad valorem tax, that is going to be the key that puts all of this together and makes us a [year-round department] with good coverage,” Geeo said. “I believe this is going to be the most critical thing so we can do what we need to do for the citizens of this community.
For more information on the ESD 2 ad valorem tax, visit palopintoesd2.com or call 940-769-2891.