Liberty City-area residents will get a chance to vote on a sales tax rate increase this fall. A unanimous vote to put the measure on the ballot was recorded at a meeting of the Gregg County Emergency Services District No. 2 board on Tuesday.
Held in the auditorium of Sabine High School, the meeting allowed members of the public to comment on the proposed measure, which would add 1.5 cents to the sales tax rate within ESD No. 2. Revenue generated by the increase will be slated for use by Sabine Volunteer Fire Department to purchase new equipment and improve response times. Sabine Fire Chief Richard Sisk said these improvements could benefit firefighting efforts and drive down local ISO scores, or “Insurance Services Office ratings. These ratings are a measure of the ability of a fire department to put out fires. An ISO of 1 is the best rating, a rating of 10 is the lowest.
“As we've been communicating with the community, we believe at the Sabine Fire Department that there's an opportunity for this community to keep 1.5 cents of the sales tax in the community, Sisk said. “We can use that, as the fire district, to provide better fire service 24 hours a day and upgrade equipment to lower the ISO on the southern part of town. Currently, that 1.5 cents is not being held in the community so it's not being collected and we believe that's going to be the best thing for us to be able to keep up with the growth in this community.
This meeting was held after an effort by ESD No. 2 to collect signatures on a petition – they needed 240 to hold a vote to approve the measure for an upcoming ballot and collected over 300. At a late February board meeting, ESD board members voted unanimously to schedule the required public hearing March 19.
No one used the public hearing to speak out for or against the measure, though the audience, made up of Sabine firefighters and local residents, applauded when board members approved the measure.
The sales tax increase will appear on a ballot Nov. 4, 2019.
“Our goal was to be on the May election but with the stringent timeline, we could not meet that timeline, Sisk said.
However, Sisk and the Sabine VFD plan to make use of the extra time by reaching out to the community about the sales tax measure.
“It will allow us to take time to educate our community. We didn't have a high turnout (tonight) but I believe we have done a good job educating our community. I believe we have a lot of support. Time will tell but we've got until November to get this in front of the community.
Board members voiced their support for the measure to the firefighters in the audience and thanked them for their service to the community.
Chief Sisk said he is open to questions or comments from community members who want to learn more about the tax increase before it goes on the ballot in November.