BOLIVAR PENINSULA — When voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the Bolivar Emergency Services District in May, they also gave the go-ahead to create a new property tax.
Voters on the peninsula are again being asked to approve a new tax, but this one is aimed at lowering the property tax burden.
When the Galveston County Emergency Services District No. 2 was created, it came with a tax rate of 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The property tax was to help fund ambulance and fire service on the peninsula.
It is estimated that it will raise about $800,000 within the next year to fund the Peninsula Emergency Service ambulance service and the peninsula’s three volunteer fire departments.
The bulk of the funding — about $790,000 — goes to fund the ambulance service, which averages about 500 calls a year. The ambulance service has four medical units with two on duty around the clock each day of the year with all four operational during high tourist season weekends, said Sid Bouse, president of the emergency services district board.
The five-member board, which is appointed by county commissioners, manages the emergency services district.
“When we created the ESD No. 2, state laws required we created it with a property tax,” Bouse said. “People said then that since visitors make up more than 50 percent of the medical calls, they should help pay for the funding so we can ease the property tax burden.”
To do that, if approved by voters, that T-shirt at the local convenience store or lumber from the home improvement stores on the peninsula will cost 2 percent more. Bouse said it is estimated the sales tax will raise about $350,000 a year.
In turn, the district board plans to lower the property tax rate. How much it will be lowered depends on how much sales tax revenue is generated, Bouse said.
“I would love to get it down to 7 (cents per $100 of assessed property value), but that’s not our goal,” Bouse said. “We would eventually like to see the (property) tax rate be 5 cents.”
Bouse said it also depends on how much county commissioners continue to subsidize emergency services on the peninsula. Before Hurricane Ike in 2008, the county provided about $150,000 to support emergency medical services on the peninsula.
After the hurricane, the county funded almost all of the $850,000 in expenses, Bouse said. This budget year, commissioners committed $375,000.
Bouse said he hopes the county will at the least continue to contribute $150,000 as it had done before the storm.