When you’re in one of the most sought-after areas of one of the fastest growing counties in Texas, challenges come with the territory. Cordillera Ranch’s luxury resort lifestyle, scenic Hill Country beauty and gorgeous homes have drawn families from all over the country and Adam Hawkins, the Chief of the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department, is passionate about making sure his operation can serve and protect the area to a very high standard. However, adequately protecting people, property and businesses in a 51-square-mile area with a volunteer fire department funded mostly by donations simply isn’t going to be realistic in the long-term, according to Hawkins.
Hawkins has been with the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department for more than ten years. He explains that what many residents of the community don’t realize is that the BVFD is 100% volunteer-run and supported by donations alone. “Unlike other larger city fire departments funded by taxes, our department has no full-time staff and no one is paid,” says Hawkins. “What this means is that every time we get a call, someone has to leave their home or job, which increases response times.”
The demand of the increasing population of Kendall County is becoming too much for 14 volunteer firefighters to handle without the proper support and infrastructure. Over the last 12 years of the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department’s existence, call numbers have risen 250%. As of July 2021, the department has already surpassed the call volume of 2020, and the need only continues to grow.
To address the growing demand and better meet the community’s needs, the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department has filed a petition for an election which would establish an Emergency Services District, or ESD. An ESD is a taxing entity that can collect property taxes or sales taxes to fund emergency services in a community. If passed, the new ESD would only support the Bergheim Fire Department and serve those in the local community. The funds would not be transferred to other communities or initiatives. This would mean ESD tax dollars of the property owners in the ESD service area would fund the costs of a larger, more appropriately- staffed fire department to serve the needs of this growing area.
Hawkins explains, “While the ESD is a new tax, it is a necessary service for the protection of the area. We need the ESD tax to continue growing with the new demands of our expanding community.” The tax will allow the fire department to secure 24/7 staffing with paid firefighters, guaranteeing service and securing faster response times. With shorter response times, homeowners can rest easy knowing they are protected and also enjoy lower insurance rates. In the future, Hawkins also hopes to build and staff a substation near the Edge Falls Road and FM 3351 intersection to better serve expanding communities in the Cordillera Ranch and Waterstone communities, which make up the bulk of the properties in the service area.
Although the proposed tax rate for the ESD is not yet set (and will only be after the ESD is formed), ten cents per $100 of the assessed value of a property is the current maximum tax rate for ESD’s in Texas and that is what is anticipated to be the rate if the ESD is formed. For example, an owner of a $500,000 home could expect to pay a max of $500 per year towards the ESD. “I understand how scary it is to take on another tax, but this small addition will help us return the service we are expected to deliver,” explains Hawkins. Hawkins further explained that some of that added annual cost is recovered via lower homeowner insurance tax rates.
So far, the Bergheim volunteer firefighters have collected over 300 signatures for the ESD petition. The petition asks the Kendall County Commissioners to add the ESD to the November 2021 ballot for a public vote. At the election, the community will decide whether or not to establish an ESD. Hawkins says that “the community, including Cordillera Ranch Development, has been very supportive of the initiative so far.”
If you have questions about the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department or want to sign the ESD petition, contact Chief Adam Hawkins at 210.885.2406.
Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department