Columbia accepts $380,000 settlement from T-Mobile

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 | 11:49 p.m. CDT; updated 12:03 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 8, 2010

COLUMBIA — More than $380,000 sounds like a good chunk of change to the Columbia City Council.

At least, it did Tuesday night when the council voted unanimously to accept the terms of a settlement in which wireless carrier T-Mobile agreed to pay the city $380,203.76.

The settlement came as part of a class action lawsuit that several Missouri cities first filed in St. Louis County several years ago, City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said. The suit aimed to collect back taxes from T-Mobile and many other wireless phone companies, according to a city staff report.

"Missouri municipalities have had a longstanding dispute with wireless ... phone companies over whether these companies are subject to the same business license taxes as landline telephone companies," city staff wrote in the report.

The Missouri Municipal League, a group that lobbies for and represents its member cities, helped earn five or six settlements in several cities, City Communications Director Toni Messina said.

“Missouri Municipal League carried the water on this in several cities,” Messina said.

Cities throughout Missouri have reached settlements not only with T-Mobile, but with other major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, Boeckmann said.

Cities are not getting all the money they are entitled to, Messina said, but T-Mobile had agreed to settle and pay taxes.

"It was a settlement," Boeckmann said. "They gave, and we gave."

T-Mobile paid the settlement, but the city must wait before it can access the funds.

The St. Louis County circuit court must accept the settlement at the Oct. 19 hearing, Boeckmann said, before the more than $380,000 will be released and added to Columbia's general fund.

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