Ben Bolt Volunteer Fire Chief Patrick Thomas was on hand to answer questions during Thursday’s Commissioners Court meeting. A couple residents who could be affected by the passage of a vote to create an Emergency Services District in the Ben Bolt area were anxious to find out just what that would mean for them and their property taxes.
Resident Adan Valadez presented concerns about being taxed by multiple entities and was curious to know some basic facts on the creation of said district. Chief Thomas stepped in to explain that the vote that the court undertook today was just enabling the fire department to put this on the May 4th ballot, giving tax payers a chance to vote.
An Emergency Services District serves unincorporated areas of counties, ones that are not drawing tax funds from cities. According to Thomas, Ben Bolt is the only unfunded volunteer fire station in the county.
“BBVFD is funded with grants and fundraisers. We have been struggling to have money to operate, money to keep the trucks filled with diesel to get to the fires,” said Thomas.
It is because of this, the volunteer fire department in Ben Bolt is presenting the idea of creating an Emergency Services District, drawing taxes from the residents in the area that they serve, thereby providing a steady income source.
“We have been around for 10 years and we have gone as far as we can by selling barbecue plates,” said Thomas.
ESD taxes are capped at 10 cents on every dollar, though the voting public will not know what the tax rate will be, only that it will not exceed the 10 cents. According to Thomas, the Sandia Volunteer Fire Department taxes at eight cents per dollar. The money would be overseen by a board appointed by the county commissioners; the board would be made up of residents of the proposed ESD.
Now that the commissioner’s court has elected to put this item on the ballot, Thomas assured that there would be “as many public information meetings as needed” to inform the public of what the ESD would provide and how it would be funded.