The city has been handed a study that says residents outside the city limit are not paying their fair share for ambulance and fire services.
The Midlothian City Council heard a report from Scott Albert, of Economists.com, a Plano consulting firm, who said two separate studies show Midlothian taxpayers are picking up the every time there is an ambulance call or home fire in the Ellis County Emergency Service District.
The ESD is larger than the city limits of Midlothian and homeowners in the ESD are taxed for fire and ambulance coverage. The Midlothian Fire Department has a contract with the Ellis County Emergency Service District to respond to calls outside the city limits. The ESD has no firemen or fire equipment.
“The study actually figured the numbers two ways,” said Don Hastings, Midlothian city planner. “One method was based on the distribution of actual calls inside the city limits and outside the city limits. The other method was based on the demographics of jobs and population to determine subsidies outside the city limits.
The study showed calls for service - both ambulance and fire calls - have increased 14 percent over the past three years. The study showed the estimated population of the fire service area was 26,288 compared to the city’s population of 13,650.
Albert said 25.95 percent of the fire and ambulance calls come from the ESD and the revenues collected made up only 21.25 percent of the Midlothian Fire Department’s budget.
“It is apparent under this analysis that Midlothian will be providing a subsidy to outside agencies indefinitely,” said Albert, “unless legislation increases the property tax rate allowed to be assessed by an ESD, other revenue sources are a acquired from outside agencies or Midlothian incorporates the outside service area.”
The Ellis County ESD currently levies 6.7 percent on homes in the ESD and could levy up to 10 percent.
“No matter how you dissect the ESD you still come up with the city subsidy,” said Albert.
This discrepancy is not unique to Midlothian. But as liability concerns and costs of emergency services escalate, many cities have stopped ambulances and fire trucks from going outside the city limits.
Communities where this has happened have seen growth wither outside the city limits and fire insurance rates rise.
The only relief from higher fire insurance rates is for communities to form volunteer fire departments. Ambulance services would be contracted out to private, for-profit ambulance services.
Several cities in Ellis County have this arrangement.
David Lister, a spokesman for Rural Citizens Against Annexation, questioned the city on what percentage of funding is federal in nature.
Midlothian Fire Chief David Schrodt said his department does get some federal money and has obtained federal grants. Schrodt said he did not have a figure for federal dollars give to the city fire department.
Schrodt said most of the department’s calls are to homes and most wrecks occur in the city limits.
“The majority of all calls are ambulance calls and fire calls are to home,” said Schrodt. “Nearly all our businesses and industry are in the city limits.”
Place 5 City Councilman Wayne Sibley, are retired firefighter, asked Albert if he felt the Texas Legislature would go up on the rate ESD’s can charge. Albert said no.
“If the state is not going up on their rates and we can’t find other funding options that only leaves one source to make up the difference,” said Sibley. “Annexation.”
The city plans to present its study to the Ellis County ESD board at their next meeting.