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  1. An Emergency Services District (ESD) is a grassroots government created by voters in an area to fund fire protection, emergency medical services, or both. More than 300 districts are operating in Texas, and more are added at almost every uniform election date.   

  2. Under the Texas Constitution, ESDs may levy a tax rate of no more than 10 cents per $100 of property value in their district. For a home on the tax rolls at $150,000, that’s an annual tax of $150, or $12.50 a month.

  3. Residents of an area may petition for an election to create an ESD. The county receives the petition for creation of an ESD, and the county commissioners court holds a hearing on the matter. If the commissioners court finds the district is “feasible and will promote the public safety, welfare, health and convenience” of residents of the proposed district, it will grant the petition for an election.

  4. Once an ESD is approved by the voters, the commissioners court appoints five members to the ESD Board of Commissioners to serve staggered, two-year terms. (In ESDs that cover territory in more than one county and in Harris County, Boards of Commissioners are elected.)

  5. An ESD board may be required to submit several reports. If requested by the commissioners court before Dec. 31, a written report is required no later than Feb. 1 to the commissioners court “regarding the district’s administration for the preceding calendar year and the district’s financial condition.”

  6. A district located in only one county must prepare and file an audit of the district’s fiscal accounts and records by June 1 each year. The county auditor, with approval of the commissioners court, shall adopt rules relating to the format of the audit and report.

  7. The 82nd Legislature passed Senate Bill 917, which requires that members of ESD Boards of Commissioners receive education in government operations. In a two-year period, ESD commissioners must receive six hours of training, certified by a public institution of higher education. The requirement is modeled after the training required of county judges and commissioners. If an appointed ESD commissioner fails to complete the training, the commissioners court may remove the ESD commissioner. If an elected commissioner (or one appointed to fill the vacancy of an elected commissioner) fails to complete the training, he/she is subject to removal under the Local Government Code.

  8. SB917 also resulted in the following:

  • An ESD commissioner may serve on the boards of overlapping ESDs without running afoul of conflict-of-interest provisions of the law.

  • An ESD board may not set the tax rate for a fiscal year before the date the board adopts a budget for that fiscal year.

  • When a district located in a single county fails to complete and file an audit report (or a county auditor has not been requested to complete the audit) by Sept. 1, the president and treasurer of the board are automatically removed.

  • Distinctions between ESDs organized under Chapter 775 and Chapter 776 (Health and Safety Code) were eliminated. Chapter 776 of the Health and Safety Code (for ESDs in counties of 125,000 or less) was repealed, and all ESDs are operating under Chapter 775.

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