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Tax increase concerns return as Pflugerville, Travis Co. ESD 2 work to strike deal for ambulance services

Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement with ESD 2 for the provision of ambulance services.

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — The Travis County Commissioners court has approved an agreement with Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 for the provision of ambulance services in parts of Pflugerville. The approval happened during Tuesday's regular meeting of commissioners.  

"Now that the County is paying for that, the figure Commissioner Griffin gave is now out of date. The updated figure is $2,045,709.  As opposed to the $2.7 figure Griffin stated," said a spokesperson for ESD 2. 

It's the latest in a back-and-forth between civic leaders and paramedic officials who have been trying to hammer out the financial details of the service agreement, while Pflugerville residents are left wondering how it'll affect their bottom line.

"The people voted, and they said no new taxes," said Pflugerville resident Anthony Nguyen.

Nguyen and Melody Ryan are just two of those Pflugerville taxpayers who decided against spending $2.8 million to use ESD 2 ambulance service during a 2021 election. 

"They've had an influx of property tax and sales tax to support the EMS and fire department services," said Ryan. "So we felt they had sufficient revenue." 

Earlier this year, the City used a private ambulance service called Acadian before the two mutually ended their contract. 

Last week, the Pflugerville City Council decided to restart negotiations with ESD 2, but ESD 2 Commissioner April Griffin said the cost isn't changing. 

"So, the price is the price," said Griffin. "It's still $2.7 million to provide the number of ambulances needed within the city. However, we probably will have some negotiations to see how we can co-fund that, a portion of it at least." 

Griffin said the projected cost also includes funds to retain and keep staff in a competitive market.

"You need to make sure that they're not wiped out," said Griffin. "They're not tired. I don't want someone showing up at my door tired and not capable of providing me the proper quality, high level of medical services." 

If approved, Griffin said taxpayers would see a 4.5% increase, which equates to $300 a year. 

"When you think about $300 a year on a $300,000 house for a high quality of services, what is that, less than $30 a month?" explained Griffin. 

While Griffin said the cost is low for taxpayers, some don't want to pay more at all with taxes already on the rise. 

"We got our appraisals and my house went up, 58% homesteaded. But if you're a renter, commercial property owner, you are struggling," said Nguyen. 

Ryan said another big concern she has with ESD 2 is its lack of transparency. 

"My concern is that ESD 2 is not transparent with their expenses," said Ryan. "They co-mingle the expenses of their EMS line of business with their fire line of business. Even though they separate the costs for other types of services, they provide it into different funds."

Griffin said Travis County holds them accountable. 

"We're ISO certified," said Griffin. "So that means that there's auditing, a tracking and we submit our numbers and our audits to the county. So we're held accountable by the County and the county officials, our elected officials – they appoint us." 

Currently, ESD 2 provides fire and EMS services to the Pflugerville ETJ. Acadian's contract is set to end in July.

Griffin said their proposal has been submitted and they hope to reach a deal soon. Once the contract is negotiated, it will be brought back to the city council for discussion and consideration. 

The City of Pflugerville released a statement:

"The City of Pflugerville remains committed to ensuring high-quality and fiscally responsible emergency medical services. City staff has initiated negotiations with Travis County ESD No. 2. Once the contract is negotiated, it will be brought back to City Council for discussion and consideration."

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