Emergency Services Districts (ESD’s) are political subdivisions of the State of Texas, which may support or provide local emergency services, including emergency medical services, emergency ambulance services, rural fire prevention and control services, and other emergency services authorized by the Texas Legislature. ESD’s may impose a sales and use tax and/or property tax to support or provide these services. In addition to other powers, an ESD may also own real or personal property, enter into contracts, employs officer, agents, and employees, accept donations, adopt and enforce a fire code, and provide a fire marshal.
ESD tax revenues may be used to hire full-time emergency personnel, contract with other entities that have full-time fire and emergency medical departments, and/or purchase new equipment and facilities. More importantly for some areas, ESDs can contract with volunteer fire and emergency medical services departments and provide a stable funding source for these entities as well. ESD tax revenues mean more time to focus on training and the provision of emergency services rather than fund-raising and other activities for these volunteer fire and emergency medical services organizations. Through these powers and stable funding, established ESDs have considerably reduced fire and medical response times, provided stable funding for volunteer and other fire and EMS departments, and allowed local entities to provide enhanced services – thus saving lives, property, and funds for local citizens.
The establishment of an ESD may result in a better Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating within the ESD service area, and lower insurance premiums for businesses and homeowners. The result is fair, evenly-shared support from all the citizens who get fire and emergency medical from their local emergency services organization or the ESD itself.
ESD’s are created under Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 775 as a means to better provide public funding for urban, suburban and rural emergency services organizations. District created under Chapter 776, Texas Health & Safety Code are generally designated for counties with populations of less than 125,000. However, the trend is to create all future ESD’s under Chapter 775 since this chapter of the Texas Health and Safety Code provides greater flexibility and authority to an ESD and these ESDs may be created in any county in Texas, regardless of population.
ESD’s are the only practical way to adequately support emergency services in many Texas municipalities as well as suburban and rural areas of the state.