Letter to the Editor

SK chief supports county tax issues

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dear Editor:

The people of Barry County have two very important items on the upcoming ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and all registered voters in the county will be able to vote. There will be a law enforcement tax and a 911 tax on the ballot. I personally support both of these but wanted to discuss the 911 tax.

When the Barry County Fire Chiefs originally started working on getting 911 in Barry County, they did their homework. They went to other 911 centers, talked to 911 directors and board members and looked at budgets and expenses. After gathering much information, they felt that it would take a 1/2 cent sales tax to support and keep a 911 center continually up to date and fully operational here in Barry County.

Unfortunately, not all of the county commissioners felt this 1/2 cent was needed, so the paperwork was filed and the ballot wording came out with a 1/4 cent sales tax for the 911 center. This was a 1/4 cent less than what the fire chiefs felt was needed. This 1/4 cent sales tax was approved by the voters six years ago.

Before 911 opened the doors, things were way different for all emergency responders and the public. Here in the Shell Knob area when you had an emergency, you called the local "emergency" number. This would go to a fire bar that was maintained by the phone company and it was capable of ringing 10 phone numbers. These phones were in the homes and businesses of our volunteers. There was no technology at the other end of the line; we didn't know who you were, where you were, nor were we trained to tell you over the phone how to give CPR. On some occasions, there was no one at any of these 10 locations to answer the emergency call and many times the system would go down without us being aware. Our enhanced 911 center solves all of these issues and much, much more.

Our 911 center dispatches around 30,000 emergency calls each year. It is an enhanced center, loaded with technology, and is capable of withstanding a natural disaster while continuing to operate on full back-up power for long periods of time. All of this technology costs lots of money to keep up to date and maintain. The original plan was to generate enough funds to keep all of the equipment up to date, in good shape and to pay the employees competitively so we could keep the good ones.

Another thing to keep in mind is that our 911 center accounts for 10 percent of the ISO rating of your fire department. The ISO rating is what many insurance companies use to figure home and business insurance rates. The lower we can keep our ISO rating, the less you pay in insurance premiums.

The upcoming ballot is asking for an additional 1/8 cent sales tax for support of our 911 center. If approved, this will allow our 911 center to collect 3/8 cent sales tax. This is still 1/8 cent short of what was originally projected to be needed, but the Board and Director of the 911 center feel that with the cuts and changes they have made, the 1/8 cent that they are asking for will keep their budget out of the red.

If approved this tax would cost you 12.5 cents for every $100 in taxable goods you purchase within the county. That's $1.25 in additional taxes for every $1,000 spent or $12.50 in additional taxes for every $10,000. If it's your home on fire, you or your family member having a medical emergency or needing law enforcement, ask yourself what's it worth to you to have an enhanced system with a trained dispatcher on the other end of the line?

Please take a little of your time to research both of the upcoming ballot items. The Barry County commissioners, sheriff and prosecutor have already started town hall meetings on the proposed law enforcement tax, and the 911 center will be hosting some meetings soon as well. Attend a few of these meetings for both 911 and law enforcement, get the facts, and cast an educated vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8.


Rusty Rickard

Central Crossing Fire District chief and vice president of the Barry County Fire Chiefs Association

Shell Knob, Missouri