Con: City, county agreements save money, reduce cost
July 20, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.
Victoria County Commissioner Gary Burns said he has never considered moving to an emergency services district, but the idea has been discussed.
"I can't see how we can do anything in the county that would be as good as the situation we have now with the city EMS and all that," he said.
For fire protection for the 892-square-mile county, the county will pay $1.5 million to the city of Victoria this year for fire and EMS service.
The portion comes out to about 12 percent of the about $12.4 million budget for the city's fire department.
Burns said the county has looked at other options, including a private company.
"Sometimes, I have a hard time arguing for the county because everyone in the city pays county taxes," Burns said.
He called the argument for being "double-taxed" a "real legitimate concern" that also includes the county roads and bridges.
"Our taxing system is a pretty imperfect system," he said. "There's all kinds of issues, and I just don't know of a better way."
Fire and EMS isn't the only partnership between the city and county.
They also are partners on the jail and dispatch, the library, city-county health department, animal control and more.
Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said the county was adamant during negotiations with the city that it did not want to pay for ladder trucks and fire stations that didn't go in the county, thus the flat fee.
"The county has a lot of options, but there's pros and cons to both sides," he said. "There's not a lot of capital expenses the county has for stations, equipment and manpower. If we did it ourselves, there would be lots of expenses for trucks, stations, personnel."
With millions going to building a new station, fire trucks, uniforms and bunker gear, it would be a substantial cost, he said.
"Is it in the best interest of our citizens to expend all that money?" he asked.
Edna City Manager Ken Knight said it was a "serious financial issue" to hold an election for an emergency service district.
"There had been a time when the county gave us something, but for their own budgetary reasons, they stopped providing any funds to the city," he said. "That was a contributor to our difficulties in being able to continue to operate the services as we had done in the past."
Because the so-called "double-tax" results in city of Victoria and Victoria County taxpayers receiving services, Knight said, he doesn't see it as being unfair.