David May

David May is the general manager and editor of the Mineral Wells Index.

Wanted to take some space to, one, try and make clear what voters in Mineral Wells will see on their No. 7 ballots and what it means, and two, offer some other thoughts on local taxes.

First, among the ballot proposals Mineral Wells residents will see are the three city bond propositions that total $17.26 million combined. Voters can vote for, or against, one, two or all three. We have put out a lot of info on the municipal bond projects and cost impacts to city property owners and utility rate payers. It is very little monthly, especially compared to the potential positive impact the projects will have on the city, its image and potential to grow economically.

The Mineral Wells people will decide whether to invest a little individually now in this city to move it forward, or choose for continued decline and pay even more later for those improvements.

Second, on Mineral Wells voters’ ballots is a proposition for creation and levy of a sales and use tax up to 2 percent to help fund emergency services in the county – specifically full-time 911 ambulance service in the rural portions of the county. To be clear, this is NOT a tax increase for the citizens of Mineral Wells and is NOT a tax that will be collected in the city.

Let me say that again. Voting for the ESD No. 1 sales tax question in Mineral Wells does not increase taxes in Mineral Wells.

The same is true in the ESD No. 2 area, including Santo, and in the incorporated towns of Graford, Gordon and Strawn. The sales tax up to 2 percent will not be collected in those areas. If passed, it would be assessed in the rural, unincorporated areas of the county like Possum Kingdom and Palo Pinto, with some allocation in Mingus since its sales tax levy is one-half of a percent below the cap of 8.25 cents.

One more time – in Mineral Wells, there are three bond propositions that would raise taxes if approved, and an ESD No. 1 sales tax issue that will not. Don’t let people try and tell you otherwise.

That is not to say the ESD No. 1 proposition does not affect people in Mineral Wells because it does. We are also county taxpayers, and the county has voted to spend about $500,000 for a year or two out of reserves (the county has an ample reserve fund and can handle at least a couple of years financially) to start rural paid 24/7 EMS service if the Nov. 7 ballot item passes. Keep in mind the paid ambulance service would serve all county residents outside Mineral Wells and ESD No. 2.

The county would likely then continue to subsidize such a service in some unknown amount based on how the rural sales tax would generate. The guesstimate is about $200,000 to offset what is presently a $650,000 annual subsidy for a privately contracted service – namely Sacred Cross EMS at the moment.

(Wonder if anyone would like to invite AMR to the table? The company just took over Johnson County 911 EMS at a subsidized cost of just over $600,000 a year for five ambulances. The company on Wednesday announced it is coming to Mineral Wells to open an ambulance refurbishment plant that will eventually employ 200-300 people, with a job fair on Tuesday at Holiday Hills Country Club for the first round of hirings. Might be interesting to see what they would pitch for Palo Pinto County’s service and cost comparisons).

If the Nov. 7 sales tax question passes in the

See MAYBE, page 5

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county, the current plan is to then seek creation of a new ESD that would assess a property tax, anywhere from a penny to 10 cents per $100 valuation, to further support the subsidized costs for county EMS. Next, county officials and ESD No. 1 hopes to convince ESD No. 2 to merge with the newly created ESD and pool its annual $225,000 in sales tax receipts to give that area, which includes the Interstate 20 corridor, paid EMS service.

ESD No. 2 is doing well on its sales tax collections – better than many thought they would – but its ambulance service is still dependent on volunteers to answer calls, meaning they have to go to the Santo VFD station, get in a truck, and then respond. Santo EMS is an excellent department and they are providing good service.

The board and people in that district can decide later if they want to merge and bring paid service to the county’s southeast quadrant – which I am hearing is questionable.

My understanding is creation of a new ESD district assessing a property tax for county EMS would not include the city of Mineral Wells and ESD No. 2. If the county wants that to pass they will need to make sure that is true, because I am 98 percent confident voters in Mineral Wells and ESD No. 2 will not vote in favor of a new property tax for a service they already receive and pay for.

I fall back on the nearly 9 cents per $100 property valuation Mineral Wells property owners send to the county for rural fire protection (3 cents per $100 property valuation) and county road and bridge maintenance (5.8 cents).

First, the county roads and bridges that are maintained are ones very few people in Mineral Wells ever drive on and none of those dollars come back to Mineral Wells help fix streets in the county’s biggest city – even though each of the four commissioner precincts come into the city and they rely heavily on the voting support of city residents.

Yes, city streets are not part of the county road system, but there could be an agreement made between the entities to send some of those dollars paid by Mineral Wells property owners back to the city – even if for just a year or two – to help with our streets. Mineral Wells needs the improvements to help make it a better attraction to businesses and industries, bringing in more tax dollars and revenues to the county – including the road and bridge assessment. Am I driving in the ditches here?

The commissioners will tell you they need all of their road and bridge dollars to maintain their county roads, rights of way and bridges. Yes, dollars don’t go too far when it comes to road work and equipment. Each of the commissioners manage their own road and bridge funds and expenditures.

Each of the four began this year with more than $500,000 in reserves, including Louis Ragle and Precinct 2 with $800,000 in reserves. He is projected to receive $677,177 in road and bridge revenues and is budgeted to spend $952,357. This is a large precinct that includes PK Lake.

The other three commissioners are budgeted to receive between $500,000 and $580,000 this fiscal year (rounded numbers) and spend $600,000 to $745,000 (rounded) in road work. They keep a reserve fund about equal about to what they spend, and I know they can explain why that is and it is understandable.

But if you live in Mineral Wells, how often have you ventured out into the Palo Pinto County and driven on anything but a state-maintained highway or road?

This nearly 9 cents in road and bridge and ESD No. 1 ad valorem taxes result in more than half a million dollars Mineral Wells taxpayers send the county annually – on top of the county tax rate.

Sometimes it seems like county officials forget Mineral Wells residents are part of the county – and vice versa.

As for the ESD No. 1 property tax for fire protection, Mineral Wells residents do receive a benefit in that Mineral Wells VFD receives $50,000 a year from ESD No. 1 and the local volunteers assist the paid Mineral Wells Fire Department on structure fires and on some EMS calls. The city does not have the paid staff to cover large fires on its own.

I probably went off the rails a bit as far as tax issues and who pays what and benefits from what. In the case of county 911 ambulance service, the sales tax question is not one that would be collected locally, so don’t be confused in thinking it would raise taxes in the city. But you are not wrong to think about it from a county standpoint.

My thinking is Mineral Wells and ESD No. 2 voters should approve the ESD sales tax question, then let the rural county residents later decide with their votes the rest of the EMS funding question and whether they want to pay for that service.

If it ends up that Mineral Wells and ESD No. 2 voters cast ballots for a new county ESD levying a property tax – you might as well forget it now.

David May is general manager and editor of the Mineral Wells Index.

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Currently the general manager and editor for the Mineral Wells Index, I have worked as a writer/editor/photojournalist since the late 1980s.