Future of southeast Travis County fire department up in the air

Travis County ESD 11 fire station (KXAN photo)
Travis County ESD 11 fire station (KXAN photo)

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) —  People who live in southeast Travis County are in danger of losing their fire department if funding is not approved in the special election.

Firefighters in that portion of the county say their budget was cut by a third when the city annexed a small piece of land belonging to the Holt Caterpillar Company.

The annexation, which goes into effect in December 2017, will result in a 32 percent loss to Emergency Services District 11’s budget, roughly $1.2 million. With the money gone, ESD 11 is forced to chose between providing fire or emergency medical services to homeowners.

Fire Chief Ken Bailey says he would be forced to drop fire services, which only receive about 20 percent of emergency calls in southeast Travis County.

There is one way to make up for the lost funds. Voters can approve the creation of ESD 15 that would raise taxes and bring in about 90 percent of the money lost to the city’s annexation.

“ESD 15 would essentially be identical in the shape and size of ESD 11 and it would be created, potentially,” Chief Bailey said. “The voters have asked for an election to decide whether or not they want to create this other ESD that would sit on top of ESD 11 and it would take over the role of fire protection for southeast Travis County.”

“It’s a hard choice, but we are going to pay a little bit or pay a lot,” one voter said. “Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but this is an easy tax. This is a tax that is going to save lives.”

Without available fire protection, homeowner’s insurance rates in southeast Travis County could increase by up to $450 a year.

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