Chamber of Commerce endorses sales tax for 911, emergency management services

Friday, March 22, 2013 | 4:16 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A three-eighths-cent sales tax for 911 and emergency management services is a good idea, and voters should approve it, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors decided Friday.

The chamber board voted to endorse the tax, which appears as Proposition #1 on the April 2 ballot, after surveying its members and reviewing their comments. The chamber said in a news release that 297 people, or 19.7 percent of its members, responded to the survey. Of those, 56.2 percent said the chamber should endorse the tax, 17.9 percent said the chamber should oppose it, and 25.9 percent said the chamber should remain neutral.

The sales tax, which was proposed after a lengthy study by a task force appointed by city and county officials, would generate an estimated $9.3 million and would help pay for a new building for 911 and emergency management operations, an increase in staff and software and equipment upgrades. Boone County government would be responsible for overseeing the combined operations.

Opponents of the tax, including Grass Roots Organizing and Keep Columbia Free, argue that the sales tax would be an onerous burden on low-income people and that officials have not justified why the budget for 911 and emergency management should be increased so much. The current budget for 911 services is $2.7 million per year; the budget for emergency services is $218,000.

“The 911 emergency services issue is an important issue in our community," chamber board Chairman Randy Coil said in the news release. "Anytime you have a tax increase, the business community is going to be concerned. That being said, our services desperately need improving. That is why the Columbia Chamber of Commerce is supporting this issue.”

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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