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North Hays EMS needs more money to keep up with emergency calls

An ambulance against a cloud-filled sunny sky
Courtesy of North Hays EMS

People living in parts of northern Hays County have been waiting up to 35 minutes for EMS to arrive after placing a call.

North Hays EMS District Administrator Doug Fowler said there are more calls coming in and they’re more spread out, making it harder to meet the national standard response time of about nine minutes.

“Once you start travel time, you’re at the mercy of how far away the call is, what the traffic conditions are like and what the weather is like,” he said.

The population of Dripping Springs and surrounding areas has more than tripled since 2010, but the region’s emergency services department hasn’t been able to grow accordingly.

The district is looking to provide better coverage by buying more ambulances and building more stations. Two stations break ground this month and are scheduled to be completed by June 2024, but Fowler said the area needs five to keep up with calls.

“You can’t get ahead when you’re underfunded,” he said, “so the first step is on the May 6th ballot.”

North Hays EMS will be asking voters in District 1 to help fund emergency services by increasing the property tax rate maximum from 3 cents per $100 to 10 cents. If the proposition passes, a second proposition in November would determine the new tax rate.

Fowler said the department has been at the same rate for over two decades — despite the region’s growth and the rise in operating costs due to inflation.

Under the state Constitution, emergency districts can't tax more than 10 cents per $100 of property valuation. Neighboring cities and counties have an EMS property tax rate between 5 and 7 cents.

If the maximum is raised to 10 cents in May, North Hays EMS will ask voters in November to raise the tax rate to around 4 or 5 cents.

“So on a million-dollar home, that's only increasing their annual taxes by around $100 to $200,” Fowler said.

The department hopes to tackle emergency response times sooner rather than later, especially as the region’s population is projected to go from about 45,000 to 90,000 in the next decade.

“We do recognize that whoever follows in my footsteps is going to have to expand this plan in the 2030s in order to cover the expanded population,” Fowler said.

Maya Fawaz is KUT's Hays County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @mayagfawaz.
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