Voting begins for sales tax election in parts of Brazos County
SMETANA, Texas (KBTX) - For volunteer fire departments, like Brazos County Precinct 4, it’s always an uphill battle finding enough firefighters. Emergency Services Districts are trying to solve their staffing problem by asking voters to consider a change to the sales tax rate to help fund their operations.
Early voting started Monday in Brazos County for the special election just as Precinct 4 firefighters were rolling out for an emergency call for a major accident. Volunteer departments cover large portions of the county including busy Highway 21.
“When the volunteers are at work or going to school at [Texas] A&M or Blinn it’s hard for them to get out and go for a call,” said Chief Joe Warren, Brazos County Precinct 4 Volunteer Fire Department.
Voters in Emergency Services Districts 3 and Emergency Services District 4 can vote now on a sales tax that, if approved, would increase the sales tax rate to the state maximum of 8.25%, in those parts of the county.
“In Precinct 3 and 4 we’re wanting to collect 1.5% and what that money will be used for in Brazos County Precinct 4 is to fund daytime duty crews while our volunteers are at work, remodel two of our three fire stations and to replace a worn out pumper tender that we have over at station 2,” said Warren.
So far early voting has been slow with less than two dozen voters as of midday Monday.
“We have our five normal early voting locations, but because of the reduced turnout we do lower the locations for election day so we only have eight election day locations,” said Trudy Hancock, Brazos County Elections Administrator.
Firefighters say this tax method being proposed shifts the burden off of property owners. Anyone buying goods in those areas would pay the sales tax.
“It will help us get more equipment, better equipment,” said Chief Jason Ware, Brazos County Precinct 3 Volunteer Fire Department.
“We’re trying to avoid going up on property taxes and what sales tax will do is help us create, get money to support our operation. But it also keeps us from going up on property taxes and may even make it go down some,” said Ware.
The special election is on Saturday, May 7. Other items on the ballot include two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.
At this time Precinct 3 doesn’t have plans to hire paid firefighters but they are looking at the future. They also didn’t have numbers yet on how much the sales tax change could capture for them but Precinct 4 told us their conservative number was $247,000 annually.
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