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Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 1999

COUNTY SEEKS EXPANDED 911 TAX FOR CELL PHONES

January 20, 1999

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Douglas County commissioners want to send a clear signal to the Kansas Legislature: Cellular, wireless and mobile phone users should have to pay 911 taxes just like everybody else.

The board is expected to pass a resolution tonight calling for legislative support of "greater tax equity" for the funding of 911 services. Currently, people who have high-tech phones don't pay the 75-cent monthly 911 tax that people with regular old-fashioned phones pay.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug thinks that's wrong.

Everyone who benefits from the service should pay, he said Tuesday. About 30 percent of all 911 calls that come in to the county's emergency communications department originate from mobile or cellular phones, the county's resolution says.

Commissioner Dean Nieder attended a Kansas Association of Counties annual meeting in November, and equity for the tax was an issue the group tackled. The KAC is urging counties to pass resolutions to send on to the Legislature, Weinaug said.

The state statute that allows for collection of the tax but excludes wireless, cellular and mobile phones simply didn't anticipate the growth of those types of communications devices, the resolution says.

Weinaug said he could see waiting to implement taxes for cellular and other phone users until technology is in place that shows emergency dispatchers a caller's location. Currently, cell phone calls don't indicate the location of the emergency. When someone calls from a regular phone at home, their address is made available to emergency workers.

That's invaluable in the case of a heart attack, for example, when the caller might not be able to talk, Weinaug said.

The commission will meet at 6:35 p.m. today at the courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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