SBVFD asks for money for the third time

by John Kasner, Correspondent

Emergency Services District No. 4, which serves the Spring Branch Volunteer Fire Department (SBVFD), hopes that the third time will be the charm when it asks voters to seek a 3-cent property tax hike in an election on.

But, according to SBVFD board president, Guy Anderson, the picture isn't a bed of roses.

"Our financial situation is very critical at the present time," said Anderson. "Massive growth has almost popped-up overnight and even if this election passes, the actual funds will not be available to us until the following year."

Anderson noted that this will be the third time that the district has seeked an election for financial help. Both previous times the issue had failed by a huge margin.

If approved, the tax is expected to raise about $195,000 per year, which would generate enough revenue to support the purchase of new trucks and equipment. Moreover, the money raised would also make it possible to provide training to handle the growth as the department branches out from its main station at FM 311 and U.S. 281.

According to fire chief Jeremy Van Ausdall, the department had 415 calls in 2004, which included 188 during the daytime when the department had only three paid firefighters on duty.

Ausdall also pointed out that these are volunteer firefighters, and they live in remote areas of the county, which means that the response time may vary greatly.

Currently, the department needs a tanker unit that was severely damaged in an accident in 2004.

"We hope to add two positions in 2005, which would include one full and one half (time) firefighter," Anderson said.

Anderson went on to say that "these folks respond to calls at 2, 3, or 4 a.m., and they've done it for years. But if you look, you'll see that it's the same ones every time, and we have augment the paid force and spread that around."

If the initial election is passed, Anderson says that the passage will indeed help some of the critical problems, but it is still not the entire solution.

"We need more resources," Anderson noted, "and I'm certainly not in favor of raising taxes, but the only way to do it is with a higher tax rate."

"If passed, it will solve some of our problems, at least for the time being, but we will have to manage our finances so that we will not create another problem," Anderson stressed.

Board member, Tony White, was also quick to point out that he has seen massive growth in this initial area, possibly the largest increase in the last two years.

White, who is the department's long-term startegic planning committee member, says that the SBVFD would have to face such growth also in the upcoming years, and that it will not be something that will go away over night.

Currently the SBVFD is joined by Canyon Lake Fire/EMS and the Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department to help the county in firefighting control. White also noted that one truck is staged out of Station No. 2, and ultimately, to meet growth demands and that the SBVFD would have a crew of three just to operate eight hours a day.

Anderson is asking voters to consider this very critical election and at least give new blood to the SBVFD firefighting efforts.

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