911 sales tax proposition on upcoming ballot, discussed at Mt. Vernon aldermen meeting

Steve Chapman

A one-half-cent sales tax which the Lawrence County Commission put on the ballot for the election to be held on Tuesday, April 2 was the topic of discussion during the Mt. Vernon Board of Aldermen’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The commission is requesting the tax as a new means to fund 911 operations in the county. If it passes, the tax will fund 911 operations in Lawrence County and replace the tariff on landlines which currently pays for dispatch services.
Max Springer, city administrator for Mt. Vernon, told the board the reason the tax was being proposed was due to diminishing funding from the landline tariff.
“That tariff has continued to dwindle over the years,” he said. “We started in Monett in 2016, the amount that the county was getting was $262,000 off of that tariff. This past year, they got $181,000 off of that tariff. Monett has continued to keep absorbing that increase, so some of those dynamics have got to change. But, as people drop their landlines, that money is going to continue to dwindle until there’s (no longer) a sufficient amount of money to run a 911 system.”
Springer also said the city could not afford to build its own dispatch system.
“We, as a city, can’t afford to put out our own districts,” he said. “It would be better to do it as a county and have a central dispatch system somewhere, wherever that might be located.”
Springer also said getting the tax passed is the first step for the county funding 911 services.
“This issue is about getting the funds to be able to operate, to start with, and then there will be a board appointed … and that will end up being an elected position,” he said. “But, after that, then they will decide, whether they will have to continue to fund whatever services they’re paying for now until they can get their own building and equipment. At that point, then, they will be able to, once the board is in place, if they so choose, they can come back to the voters with a bond issue that is supported by the tax to build a 911 system. Until they get that board, the tax is not tied to any kind of a bond issue, it’s tied to just the operation.”
Currently, 911 operations for Mt. Vernon and other surrounding communities are handled by the dispatch center in Monett. Springer said even if the tax passes, Monett will continue to provide 911 services until a new dispatch center was built.
“We will still be with Monett, even if the tax was to pass, until something was established,” he said.
Mayor David Eden asked Springer how much Mt. Vernon paid in dispatching fees for 2018. Springer replied that the city paid $58,000.
“If we actually paid on all of the protocols that were received at the call center for our dispatch, we would have owed $159,280.04,” Eden said. “So, we are $100,000 in arrears, basically.”
Eden also said the current landline tariff is no longer adequate for funding 911 operations, and also pointed out the number of landlines in the county had dropped from 11,000 in 2007 to 4,000 in 2017.
“The cost to operate the call center projected for 2018, and the final numbers aren’t in, were $938,045,” he said. “And, if you only collect $180,000, somebody’s going to have to pick up the remaining $750,000 somehow.”
Springer also said a new way to fund the call center had to be found.
“It is important that if we want to keep the 911 system, we’re going to have to come up with the means to fund it,” he said. “Otherwise, we as a city are going to be paying somebody for dispatch, regardless. We couldn’t buy the equipment and put the staff in, even at $159,000.”
Springer also said the county might ask the board for its support in passing the tax, but their support would have to be limited to answering questions about the tax.
“This board will probably be asked to do a resolution in support of the tax, but we cannot encourage anybody in how to vote,” he said.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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