Proposed E911 sales tax would replace landline tariffs currently funding services

Steve Chapman

Dwindling landline numbers compromise 911 funding, county seeks alternative to keep 911 service going
When Lawrence County voters go to the polls on Tuesday, April 2, one of the issues they will vote on is a proposed one-half-cent sales tax to fund “central dispatching of fire protection, law enforcement agencies, emergency ambulance service, emergency telephone service, and other emergency services.” The proposed tax, if it passes, will replace the landline tariff currently being used to fund E911 services in Lawrence County.
According to Bonnie Witt- Schulte, manager of Monett 911 and Emergency Management, when the landline tariff was originally put in place, almost everyone in the county had a landline. However, as more and more people start using cellphones in place of landlines, the number of landlines is diminishing, and with that, the funding for E911 services. Last year, she said, the tariffs only generated between $180,000 and $190,000.
“We’re losing landlines every single month,” she said.
Tim Selvey, Lawrence County eastern commissioner, said if the tax passes, it is expected to generate $1.5 million per year.
“That’s based on what has been generated in the past on a half-cent sales tax in Lawrence County,” he said.
Witt-Schulte said that is about the amount needed to fully fund dispatch services.
“If you look at what it costs to run a stand-alone system, the general budget for Barry County is … right at $1.3 million,” she said. “The same thing for McDonald County and Webster County; they’re right on track with those numbers as well.”
The revenue from the proposed tax would also replace fees which local entities pay for dispatching services. For example, Mt. Vernon City Administrator Max Springer said the city currently pays $58,525 per year for dispatch services. If the tax passes, the entities will no longer have to pay those fees.
However, if the tax doesn’t pass, those fees will increase. Springer said Mt. Vernon’s fees will increase to $151,575 on May 1 if the tax fails. Witt- Schulte said other entities which can’t afford dispatch services will most likely see their 911 calls go to local law enforcement offices instead of a central dispatch office.
To help direct the spending of the proposed tax revenue, the Lawrence County Commission appointed several people to an ad hoc committee for the 911 tax. The members of the committee are: David Hubert, representing the Mt. Vernon Police Department; Brad Delay, representing the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office; Rick Richardson, representing the Mt. Vernon Fire Protection District; David Eden, representing the City of Mt. Vernon; Bonnie Witt-Schulte, representing the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency;
 Shane Anderson, representing the Barry-Lawrence County Ambulance District; Jon Holmes, representing the City of Aurora; James Smith, representing the City of Miller; Kris Bowling, representing the City of Marionville; Glo Abramovitz, representing the City of Pierce City; Jim Carson, representing the Halltown Fire Department; Nathan Schnake, representing Stott City; Jay K Quoka, representing the Miller Rural Fire Department; Joseph Heck, representing the City of Verona; Art Mattlage, representing Freistatt; Aaron Siegrist, representing the Aurora Rural Fire and Richard Witthuhn, representing the Aurora Police Department.
Witt-Schulte emphasized that the half-cent sales tax is a trend most Missouri counties are moving towards for paying for E911.
“The main thing I want people to understand is that this is a normal process that most of the counties in Missouri are going through,” she said, “and we are simply replacing that landline tax with a sales tax so that the cost of 911 is spread out more evenly besides those people who have landlines in our county.”


Lawrence County Record

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


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