ESD 13 seeking revenue increase
A Cypress Creek emergency services district is asking voters on May 14 to authorize a 5 cent increase in its property tax rate to replace a fire station threatened by erosion.
Voter authorization would mean Harris County Emergency Services District No. 13, which funds the Cypress Creek Volunteer Fire Department, could double its tax rate, currently 5 cents per $100 of valuation, to reach the maximum rate allowed by state law for ESDs.
But that doesn't mean the district would start charging that much right away, ESD President Ben Henderson said.
"The dime represents the maximum tax. We anticipate that we probably won't assess the full dime anytime soon," Henderson said. "It is prudent to go to where you can go and then tax according to what you need."
Henderson said that initially he thought the tax would be 6 or 7 cents per $100 valuation.
The district's boundaries are Spring Cypress Road to the north, Tomball Parkway and Cutten Road to the east, Telge and Jones roads to the west and Cypress North Houston and Windfern roads on the south.
The extra revenue primarily will be used to replace Fire Station No. 23 at 9860 Cypresswood Drive, which is threatened by erosion from nearby Cypress Creek, Henderson said. The plan is to rebuild the firehouse in a safer location a half-mile away.
The total projected cost for the fire station is $3.2 million.
"We prefer to do it (replace the station) now rather than long term," Henderson said, but added, "If we build it, our budget is going to be in an upside-down situation for many years."
Extra revenue from a tax-rate increase will also help to cover the increase in expenses the district incurred over the last several years.
The district receives some small donations and collects interest on savings bonds and CDs, but taxes from the some 21,000 residential properties make up the bulk of district revenue of approximately $2.54 million. Tax revenue totaled approximately $2.4 million.
Henderson said that declining property values have brought that revenue down "a considerable amount."
From 2008 to 2010, the total of real and personal property value in the district decreased by $373,923,553.
The tax rate has been set at 5 cents since 2001, according to the fire department's website.
Voters then approved a 2 cent tax-rate increase to fund expansion plans of the department because of development within the district, according to the website.
Even at the maximum of 10 cents, Henderson said he didn't think it would create too much of a financial burden on taxpayers.
A median-priced home in the Cypress Creek area is $195,700, according to the Houston Association of Realtors. A 10-cent tax rate would amount to $195.70 per year.
"It's much more inside the city of Houston," where taxes must cover the costs of salaries, Henderson said. "We provide a great service; (residents) are getting a great value," he said.
Early voting continues until May 10.
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