What is an ESD?

An Emergency Services District is a political subdivision of the State of Texas, similar to a School District, Library District, or Hospital District.

What does an ESD do?

Depending on the ESD’s creation documents, an ESD can provide fire protection, emergency medical services, or both.

How are ESDs created?

ESDs are created through a “grassroots” effort:

A petition signed by at least 100 voters in the proposed district must be presented to the County Commissioners Court in the county (or counties) in which the ESD is intended to exist.

If the ESD is deemed feasible and necessary by the Commissioners Court, an election is called in which the voters in the proposed District must elect to create the District.

If a majority of the votes are cast in favor of creation, the District is created.

How are ESDs governed?

A board of five commissioners governs ESDs. In most counties in Texas, the County Commissioners Court appoints the commissioners to two-year terms. Commissioners are elected for ESDs in Harris, Orange, and Smith counties, as well as for ESDs that exist in more than one county.

So ESDs are an extension or department of the county’s government?

No, they are an independent governmental entity.

How are ESDs funded?

ESDs are allowed to levy ad valorem (property) tax. The Texas Constitution states that ESDs may tax up to $0.10 per $100 of property valuation. The ESD’s creation documents establish the district’s initial tax rate.

ESDs may also collect sales tax, provided an election is held and voters approve of this power. In Texas, 8.25% is the maximum allowed sales tax rate. The state collects 6.25%, leaving 2% available to eligible local jurisdictions, including ESDs. An ESD may collect anywhere from .125% to 2% of the local sales tax rate depending on availability and subject to voter approval.

ESDs are also allowed to bill for services provided, such as emergency medical services or fire protection, if it so chooses.

Do ESD boards have meetings?

By law, ESD boards must meet at least once a month. All meetings are subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act. ESDs must also comply with the Texas Public Information Act concerning open records requests and records retention.

What laws or agencies oversee ESDs?

While ESDs are established by Article 48-e of the Texas Constitution, Chapter 775 of the Texas Health and Safety Code is the enabling statute for all ESDs. ESDs are required by law to file an Annual Report with the Texas Department of Agriculture by January 1st of each year.

What about financial accountability and transparency for ESDs?

Unless the ESD falls under an exception, ESDs are required by law to file an audit with their County Commissioners Court by June 1 of each year. If the audit is not filed by Sept. 1, the President and Treasurer of the ESD board are automatically removed from their offices.

If an ESD meets certain requirements, it may be allowed to file certified financial statements instead of an audit. This exception exists for smaller ESDs that would have difficulty affording an exhaustive audit process.

Is there any training or continuing education required for ESD Commissioners?

Yes, each commissioner must complete at least 6 hours of certified training in a two-year period.

Are ESDs subject to Truth-in-Taxation requirements regarding their budgets and tax rates?

Yes. As a political subdivision, ESDs must comply with all Truth-in-Taxation requirements.

How do ESDs provide services to the public?

ESDs provide services in a variety of ways. Some ESDs chose to contract with an independent service provider, such as a fire department or an ambulance service. Other ESDs chose to function as the service provider themselves, taking on the role of overseeing the actual day-to-day management of the services.

Comal County ESD No. 6 

Is a component unit of Comal County, a political subdivision of the State of Texas, and was created by the Comal County Commissioners’ Court after a Public Election in 2003. The District was created to provide emergency services and promote the public safety, welfare, health, and convenience of persons residing in the District.


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