Johnson County voters on Saturday approved a proposal to increase the tax rate of the Johnson County Emergency Services District No. 1 from 3 cents per $100 of property valuation to 6 cents per $100.
The proposal passed by a vote of 1,231 to 829.
JCESD helps fund fire departments throughout the county with the exception of those in Cleburne and Burleson. Voters in those two cities were not eligible to vote.
Joey Reed, executive director of JCESD, and several area fire chiefs said the increase was necessary to improve fire protection service and keep up with rising costs.
“It’s long overdue,” Reed said. “We’ve had the same tax rate for 25 years. The fire departments did an excellent job in providing services with dwindling revenue, but this will help us, and the citizens, in several key ways.
“It’s going to help us respond quicker, help us improve our services and training, help us upgrade equipment. It’s also going to help us recruit and retain more volunteer firefighters, which is important because it saves the county $10 million to $15 million a year in firefighter salaries.
“I’m also thankful to the Johnson County Emergency Support Services, Johnson County Emergency Services Association and everyone who helped get word out to educate the public about what the ESD is, and why this increase is important.”
The ESD and individual departments will not see the benefits of the increased revenue until early 2012, Reed said.
“After the first year of that, I want to come back and show the taxpayers how those additional funds are being used, and how that benefits the county.
Sibley, Birdwell head to runoff
The seemingly never-ending Texas Senate District 22 race has yet another round to go as no candidate gathered a majority of the vote on Saturday.
David Sibley and Brian Birdwell, both Republicans, will meet in a runoff. The date of the runoff will be set by Gov. Rick Perry.
Sibley collected 13,420 votes Saturday compared to 10,889 for Birdwell. Democratic candidate Gayle Avant placed third with 3,968 votes followed by Republican Darren Yancy, who had 1,559 votes.
The district covers 10 counties, including Johnson County.
Perry called Saturday’s election after former state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, resigned his seat. Averitt filed for re-election last year but later withdrew for health reasons. At that time, Averitt and Yancy were the only two candidates on the ballot. Despite his withdrawal, Averitt went on to defeat Yancy in the March 2 Republican primary. Averitt’s resignation a short time later prompted the called election to fill the unexpired portion of his term.
Sibley held the seat before Averitt’s election. Averitt previously served as Sibley’s chief of staff. Birdwell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, suffered injury in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon.
“We like our position,” Sibley said Saturday night. “This is exactly what happened in my 1991 race, and we went on to win that race comfortably. So, I’ve been here before. I’ve got a good team, and I’m ready to move on to the runoff. “
Sibley thanked his supporters and his opponents.
“During this election, I have focused on my lifelong experience of fighting for our conservative values and my desire to continue that fight,” Sibley said. “In the coming weeks, I will continue to travel the district to meet and listen to the citizens’ concerns. I also will be reaching out to ask for the support of those who didn’t vote for me this time and demonstrate to them that I am the best candidate to represent our conservative values in the Texas Senate.”
Although Sibley won Saturday’s contest district-wide, Birdwell carried Hood, Johnson and Somervell counties.
“Today, the voters sent a strong message that this seat does not belong to lobbyist David Sibley and the special interests. It belongs to the people,” Birdwell said. “Despite being outspent more than 4 to 1, and starting this race only eight weeks ago, we closed the gap with each passing day.
“[In the runoff] voters will have a clear choice between a lobbyist and a conservative citizen legislator. With the continued support of grassroots citizens, we intend to claim this seat for the people.”
The winner of the runoff will occupy the seat until January. An election to determine the winner of the next term remains on schedule for November.
Although he resigned from office, Averitt has so far not removed his name from the November ballot. Having won the March Republican primary, and with no Democrat having filed in that race, Averitt remains the only candidate on the ballot.
Technically, Averitt could change his mind and run for re-election in November. If he withdraws his name from the ballot, as he is expected to do, the chairmen of the respective parties of the 10 SD-22 counties will choose a Republican and a Democratic candidate to compete in November’s election.
There’s a new town in Johnson County, and it’s called Coyote Flats. The election to incorporate Coyote Flats was open only to residents living within the new town’s boundaries. Those residents approved the measure by a vote of 76 to 11.
Coyote Flats lies east of Cleburne and south of Keene. It includes portions of County Road 415, CR 417A and Farm-to-Market Road 2415.
Residents of the new town will be responsible for the maintenance of 2 1/2 to 3 miles of roadway now maintained by the county.
An unsuccessful attempt by Keene to annex the area led residents to move to incorporate.
Voters also approved the election of the new town’s first city council. John Barnett was elected mayor, Doug Peterson commissioner Place 1 and Rob Slough commissioner Place 2. All three ran unopposed.
Below are early voting results for the Senate District 22 race, Coyote Flats mayor and commissioner races, as well as the proposition to incorporate Coyote Flats. Early voting returns on are also in for the Johnson County ESD No. 1 proposition election.
Senate District 22 (Johnson County numbers only)
Brian Birdwell (Rep.) 2,017
David Sibley (Rep.) 834
Gayle Avant (Dem.) 330
Darren Yancy (Rep.) 253
Statewide numbers (Runoff to be scheduled between Birdwell and Sibley)
Brian Birdwell (Rep.) 10,889
David Sibley (Rep.) 13,420
Gayle Avant (Dem.) 3,968
Darren Yancy (Rep.) 1,559
Coyote Flats — Mayor
John Barnett 77
Coyote Flats — Commissioner - Place 1
Doug Peterson 78
Coyote Flats — Commissioner - Place 2
Rob Slough 75
To incorporate Coyote Flats
Proposition No. 1
To increase the maximum rate of ad valorem tax imposed by Johnson County Emergency Services District No. 1 from 3 cents per $100 valuation to a rate of 6 cents per $100 valuation