Prop 1 seeks sales tax for 911, emergency centers

Saturday, March 30, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Proposition #1 on Tuesday's ballot seeks a three-eighths-cent sales tax to finance an overhaul of Boone County's 911 and emergency management centers.

The sales tax, which would add 3.75 cents to the cost of a $10 purchase, would generate an estimated $9.3 million per year for Public Safety Joint Communications and the Office of Emergency Management.

A breakdown on for how the money would be spent calls for a total of $20 million in capital projects, including:

  • $11.35 million to design and build a new center for 911 and emergency management operations. The center would be partially underground and would be built on the county's law enforcement campus off Roger I Wilson Memorial Drive, near the Boone County Jail and Sheriff's Department building.
  • $2.83 million for new radio equipment.
  • $5.82 million for new information technology hardware and software and other equipment.

Annual projected spending for 911 operations would break down as follows:

  • $4.1 million for personnel. County officials have said they would hire 25 additional call-takers for the 911 center.
  • $655,000 for maintenance, support and licensing of information technology equipment.
  • $260,000 for radio system support and maintenance.
  • $930,000 for other operational expenses.

Annual projected spending for the Office of Emergency Management totals $515,000 for personnel, equipment maintenance and other costs.

Debt retirement on bonds issued to finance capital projects would cost an estimated $2.2 million per year.

Boone County commissioners, Sheriff Dwayne Carey and other officials have said improvements to the 911 and emergency management operations, as well as additional staff, are essential to keep pace with the rising number of calls to the 911 center and to improve aging and crowded facilities. If the tax is approved, the county would oversee management of all 911 and emergency management services.

The existing budget for these services is about $3 million per year. Those costs are covered by contributions from user agencies, including the city of Columbia, Boone County, fire districts, ambulance services and others.

Opponents of the tax, including representatives of Grassroots Organizing and Keep Columbia Free, have criticized the proposal as exorbitant and lacking in detail. They also argue that the sales tax would be unfair to people with low incomes.

Here is the actual language that will appear on Tuesday's ballot:

County of Boone

Proposition #1

Shall Boone County, Missouri, impose a new county-wide sales tax not to exceed three-eighths of one percent for the limited purposes of providing funding for a county-wide joint communications and dispatch center (911 Center), and for the funding of emergency management services, including the acquisition, improvement, construction, and equipping of facilities for said purposes and operating the same?

  • Yes
  • No

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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