Will the 911 sky fall down if voters reject quarter-cent sales tax hike in November?

One’s first instinct is to say “Hey 911 is a necessary service, the tourists will pay most of it, so let’s vote for it.” Folks, on any retail sales tax “tourists,” as a whole will pay the majority of the total taxes collected because there are millions of them, but on a day to day basis, over the period of a year, those of us living in Branson and Taney County will, on an individual basis, pay more simply because we live and shop here every day and pay the tax day after day.

One thing should be noted, if the tax is defeated this time it does not mean that the 911 sky will fall. For what it matters an Ole Seagull believes that if the 911 retail sales tax does not pass in November, at least for the immediate foreseeable future, 911 services will continue much as it does currently. It does however mean that there would be no consolidation of 911 services including the expenditure of $4 million for a new building, cost of land acquisition, $4.5 million for capital equipment expenses and an annual budget of $2.7 million to run the consolidated 911 program and a search for an Executive Director to run the facility with attendant salary. Further, it can be brought up again for a vote at a future time.

Currently, we are told, Missouri is the only state in the United States where only land lines pay for 911 services and cell phones pay nothing. This has led to a shortfall in 911 funds. We are told that if the tax is passed the tax that land line owners are now paying would be rescinded. Exactly how would that work? Is there a possibility that land line owners could end up paying the tax they are now paying plus the 911 quarter-cent sales tax? If the 911 quarter-cent sales tax is approved and Missouri subsequently authorizes the 911 tax on cell phones how will that impact on the 911 quarter-cent sales tax? What political efforts have been made by the 911 quarter-cent sales tax supporters to get Missouri’s law changed to provide for a 911 tax on cell phones?

It has been reported that if the tax passes a board would be appointed that is similar to the current 911 advisory board. It would consist of an “ambulance district director, emergency manager, a fire chief, a police chief, an employee with the Taney County Sheriff’s Department and two additional members from one of the aforementioned groups.” An Ole Seagull finds it disturbing that there is no “client citizen” representation on the board. Here is a service whose primary value is directly serving its clients with a needed basic service financed by taxpayer dollars and there is no plan to have any of those clients on the board.

“But Seagull, what does the common citizen know about 911 and emergency services?” “About as much as they know about serving as a member of the Branson Board of Aldermen, Taney County Commission or as state and federal representative or senator. That’s worked pretty well so far to run a city, county, state and country. Why was no provision made to have the average client citizen represented on the 911board where its actions have a potential for a direct and personal impact on them and the expenditure millions of dollars of tax pay money. Would not their input and oversight be of importance and provide an independent perspective?

And it’s even a tad worse. That type of representation appears to have been specifically excluded by the verbiage that says “and two additional members from one of the aforementioned groups.” One could almost get the impression that they don’t want the input and oversight that the average citizen would provide on the board and are saying “we know what is best, just vote the money and we’ll take it from here.”

Interestingly there has been very little said about how much of the tax would be lost to 911 if the board pays 50% of the tax collected in “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills” to the city of Branson in TIF payments if voters approve the tax and they elect to pay the TIF to the city. How much will that be and do they intend to pay it to the city? If they intend to pay it what is their basis for doing so?

“But Seagull, they are having local educational meetings that will answer all these questions?” “They are having meetings and might answer all these questions, but, in the majority, only the people at that meeting will know what happened. In the alternative they could answer them by responding to this editorial in a letter to the editor and let all the readers of the Branson Daily Independent know at once.” “But then there would be an open written record.” “Is that a bad thing?”

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