St. Lawrence County eyes 30 cent monthly surcharge on wireless phones to offset 911 costs
By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON -- St. Lawrence County residents who use cell phones may see a new 30-cent fee for each cell phone line, beginning in December.
At a Finance Committee meeting Monday, legislators called for a public hearing on a proposal that would levy a new surcharge on cell phones to help fund the E911 systems operating within the county.The proposal still requires approval from the full Board of Legislators before it would take effect. A public hearing is currently planned for Aug. 7.
St. Lawrence County Chairman Kevin Acres R-Madrid says he supports the proposal. Although he does not like the idea of burden taxpayers further, he says the surcharge will only apply to people receiving the service.
“It’s kind of like a consumption tax,” he said.
Acres says the state already collects a fee on both landlines and cell phones, but the county only receives cents on the dollar back from state, according to the county’s director of emergency services.
Acres says the county is going to need to maintain the E911 lines regardless and with revenue from the state declining, he’d rather see the surcharge, than raise the balance through property taxes.
According to a resolution passed by the committee, the state would collect a monthly fee of about 30 cents for each wireless phone line. The law will also allow providers to charge an administration fee of up to 3 percent of the surcharge.
The surcharge is estimated to raise more than $200,000 for county.
“All net revenue generated from the imposition of this surcharge is for payment of system costs, eligible wireless 911 service costs, or other costs associated with the administration, design, installation, construction, operation, or maintenance of public safety communications networks or a system to provide enhanced wireless 911 service serving such the county,” the resolution says.
According to the resolution, legislators recognize “the importance of the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of St. Lawrence County and further recognizes that when the lives or property of citizens of the St. Lawrence County are in imminent danger a timely and appropriate assistance must be rendered.”
According to the resolution, E911 significantly reduces the response time of emergency services and helps save lives.
If passed approved by the full board of legislators, the law would take effect Dec. 1, 2017.