A ballot measure to create a $1 monthly fee for all devices capable of contacting 911 in Adair County will appear on the April 2 ballot.
If passed, the money raised from the tax will go to emergency 911 services throughout the county.
Chris Killday, E-911 director in Adair County, said this initiative has been in the works for 15 years, but the state just allowed it last year.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill last year allowing individual counties to tax any devices capable of contacting 911. Previously, 911 services were funded through landline fees and subsidies. Missouri was the only state to not allow counties the opportunity to implement a such a tax to pay for 911 services.
In Adair County, emergency 911 services are currently funded through a $1.45 landline fee for anyone outside Kirksville city limits and a joint subsidy from the City of Kirksville, Adair County, the Adair County Ambulance District and Truman State University. The new tax would replace the existing $1.45 fee on landlines.
Don Crosby, Adair County E-911 Service Board Chair, said the funds received would be used to increase services and make the 911 center more efficient.
“I am very proud of the 911 center,” Crosby said. “It’s one of these great opportunities that governments have to work together. To have firefighters, policemen, the sheriff, the county, the city, ambulance district and the University all work together well for the common good, I think it’s something Adair County can be very proud of, and I think it’s worth funding it to make sure that it has a long-term, consistent future.”
Crosby said based on data of cell phone users over the age of 18, he would expect the tax to be applied to about 21,000 cell phones, raising about $250,000 each year.
Killday said the funds raised from the new tax, if approved, will not cover all the 911 center’s costs. In 2018, the total operation costs were $616,344, which Killday said is largely the result of personnel and providing insurance. There are 10 people that work at the 911 center, costing about $500,000.
“We do think we have a good 911 center,” Crosby said. “We know that right now we don’t have well-established plans for replacing equipment. It’s not like we’re underfunded or we don’t have a way of proceeding in the future.”
Crosby said if there were an added expense, such as replacing equipment, he would bill the agencies who participate in the joint subsidy, but that money would have to come from other programs and expenses they already have on limited budgets.
Killday said the 911 center’s radio and phone systems are outdated, but there is currently no funding to replace them.
Crosby said cell phones have significantly added to the call volume received by emergency services, while landline use and fee money have decreased over the past several years.
The tax would only apply to residents of Adair County who have a service billing address in the county. The Missouri statute allows up to $1 per line, so that is what is proposed on the ballot.
Killday said she does not know if the county will struggle to get enough funding with a new tax because of the two universities and a large student population that might not be from the area. She said because the tax is on a county-by-county basis, it benefits the state as whole.