E-911 sales tax issue will likely come before voters

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On June 27, the Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board discussed placing a one-eighth-cent sales tax issue on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

"Looking at the budget, our debt service and our tax revenues, which continue to be below pre-recession levels, our current situation is unsustainable financially," said Jon Horner, board chairman. "We are not like any other county office, we can't shut our doors and turn our phones off at 5 p.m. To be a full-service dispatching center we must have a certain number of dispatchers on duty each time shift.

"From the questions we received from the fire chiefs at the last meeting, it seemed as they felt we were not properly funded from the get-go," said Horner. "It looks to me like a one-eighth-cent sales tax would generate enough money so that we can sustain ourselves, pay our bills and continue to make improvements and maintenance to our equipment as needed."

Horner recommended the board place the issue on the November ballot.

Board member Harold Schelin stated that he felt Mike Phillips, E911 director, had cut the organization's budget to the bare bones.

"I don't see the money in our current circumstances, even discounting the money used for the lawsuit, we would still be in trouble," said Schelin.

Over the last few years, the Emergency Services Board has paid the debt service for the Barry County E-911 Operations Center using Wells Fargo loan funds. After the payment, which is $190,000 per year, is made in 2012, the Wells Fargo balance will drop under $44,000.

"That is not enough to make even one more payment," said Phillips. "At that point, the payment would have to come out of our savings."

Phillips spoke to Gary Youngblood, county clerk, regarding election costs. If the E-911 sales tax increase is the only issue on the November ballot, it will cost the board between $14,000 and $15,000. If another issue is placed on the ballot, the cost could decrease to around $8,000.

"The county is considering placing a tax on the November ballot due to the economy," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly, a member of the E-911 Board.

The board must vote to place the issue on the ballot and submit ballot language for the issue by Aug. 30 in order to place the issue on the November ballot.

The board voted to begin developing ballot language for the issue. A special meeting will be called to approve the language and vote to place the issue on the ballot.

The board also approved a $1,126,920 budget for fiscal year 2011-12. Phillips projected that the organization will receive $880,600 in sales tax revenue, interest and other income, including maps, signs and restitution. The projected revenue amount includes a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue.

The board currently has $451,002.25 in unrestricted funds, including a checking account, a savings account and the Wells Fargo Loan. A total of $262,090.17 has been placed in the restricted escrow account.

In other business, the Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board:

* Reviewed the director's report.

* Heard that Phillips gave a presentation at a Cassville Rotary Club meeting.

* Reviewed monthly call statistics.

* Approved the financial report.

* Set the next board meeting on Sept. 26.

* Held an executive session to discuss legal issues.

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