The sponsor of 911 funding legislation says her plan gives options to counties that are struggling to pay for that service.
County governments and organizations that represent them have been pushing for a 911 funding mechanism for years. They say the old landline-based surcharge that supports it doesn’t provide enough money as fewer people use landline phones and switch to mobile devices. That forces counties to pull money from other places, or cut the service. Eighteen counties in Missouri don’t have a 911 system.
“What this bill does is provide enabling legislation for counties to go to the voters to apply a fee to all devices … wireless and wire line … to help fund 911 services,” Lauer says. “The proposed fee is up to $1.50 per device, and again this is enabling legislation so it must go to the voters.”
Lauer emphasizes that counties could only use one of the three funding mechanisms.
Callaway County Associate Commissioner Doc Kreider says the proposal would help rural counties, who struggle the most to support 911.
“Our overall objective is to have a call taking center, or when someone dials 911 anywhere in the state of Missouri … then we have a competent, qualified, trained person that’s going to take your call and will be able to dispatch the appropriate agency for help,” Kreider says.
The bill includes a provision that would bar any third-class county from submitting a proposal to the voters until all emergency telephone providers in the county have consolidated, or until a study is done to consider consolidation.
Some lawmakers said it doesn’t make sense for some counties not to consolidate and keep collecting a sales tax or start collecting a new surcharge.
“It’s not going to solve the problem with funding in some of these counties just to allow them to collect a tax on cell phones because it’s still going to cost the counties general revenue to maintain the services,” says Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany).
The plan has been approved and sent to the Senate.