Platte County's 911 tax doesn't go up after commission's split vote

A renewal of the county’s 911 land-line telephone tax led to political discussion and a split vote at the Platte County Commission’s administrative session this week. At the Aug. 3 meeting, Platte County’s service tax came up for annual renewal. Although the paperwork filed with the commission recommended renewing the tax at 1½ percent, Capt. Anthony Avery and Capt. Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office recommended renewal at the voter-approved tax ceiling of 2 percent. With the increasing use of mobile phones, the department is facing a funding gap of approximately $140,000 for the coming year, which would need to be picked up by the general fund.

The tax is assessed only against land-line telephones and some telephone services through other providers.

For example, Time Warner Cable customers pay the fee, yet AT&T customers do not. Mobile telephone users also pay no fee for 911 service. Holland pointed out that Missouri is the only state in the union without a 911 mobile phone tax of some variety.

“I would gladly pay to have 911 service on my phone,” Platte County first district commissioner Beverlee Roper said, noting she — like many other people — no longer had a land-line phone at all.

Turning to presiding commissioner Ron Schieber, Roper asked why the Missouri legislature has never managed to pass any of the several mobile 911 tax bills presented. Schieber said he voted against the bills presented during his time in the legislature.

“I believe 911 is a local issue and it needs to be handled locally,” Schieber said. “The bills I saw would redistribute our dollars out of Platte County and to other small, rural counties to pay for their 911 services.”

Additionally, he said he believed there were other expenses in state government that received higher priority than 911, which he considers an essential service.

“I wanted to see fundamental reforms to the budget before I voted to approve any proposed bill,” Schieber said.

Despite the funding shortfall, Schieber said since the county is able to cover the difference through general revenue he does not support raising the tax from 1½ percent to 2 percent. Roper agreed, stating existing land-line customers should not be forced to pay for untaxed mobile customers using 911 services.

Second district commissioner Duane Soper said voters approved the 2 percent tax, and he believed it was appropriate to assess the tax at that level to help cover the funding shortfall. He voted against the motion to pass the tax renewal at 1½ percent but was outvoted 2-1.

Also at the meeting, the board accepted two grants and related agreements — a $1,200 grant agreement related to an upcoming DWI enforcement campaign, and an approximately $71,000 grand for emergency management.