Heartland 911 centers struggle to make up for lost tax revenue

Heartland 911 centers struggle to make up for lost tax revenue
"911, where is your emergency?"
"911, where is your emergency?"

SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - "911, where is your emergency?"

That's the question you want to hear when things go wrong.

"I would expect them to respond immediately," said taxpayer Raymond Kennedy.

Sikeston Department of Public Safety Chief Drew Juden says it's a service on which the community depends.

"We expect to dial 911 then in 2-3 minutes you've got someone standing on your doorstep," Juden said.

However, 911 centers across the state of Missouri are hurting.

"Every year people are getting rid of their landlines so that tax money is going away," Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said.

Walter knows the department can just stop funding such a valuable service.

"The county commission has to transfer money from the general fund and when you do that you're taking money from other services," Walter said. "If we can't bring any money in to fund this, I could actually see we would be without 911."

Walter says they're taking more than $250,000 from the general fund to make up the difference. In Sikeston, Chief Juden says that figure is about $500,000.

"The cell phone users are using this service more than the people who are actually paying the taxes." Juden said, "We have lost a tremendous about of revenue due to the fact that Missouri is still the only state that doesn't have a tariff or doesn't have taxation on these cell phones."

Juden calls a cell phone tax a small price to pay for a big peace of mind.

"I know nobody wants to hear about taxes or additional money on their cell phone bill but at the same time they expect that service," Juden said.

Kennedy agrees.

"If I had to get a phone to keep it going, I'd get a house phone," Kennedy said.

Missouri House of Representatives lawmakers tried as recently as this past Spring to give counties the ability to tax cell phones to help pay for 911 service. House Bill 653 passed in April, but then died in the Senate a month later. A spokesman for the bill's sponsor says she plans to bring the issue up again in January.

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