Tag Archives: 911 Tax

Letter Claims 911 Joint Comm Mismanagement and Bullying

Yesterday I received a mysterious, anonymous letter from an employee of Columbia-Boone County Joint Communications. In the letter the author claims that there are more problems with Joint Communications than money can fix, not even a $20,000,000 lump sum and $9,300,000 every year after, until the end of time.

This is not the first time I’ve heard claims from city employees that whistle-blowers face retribution from city staff and it’s not the first time I’ve heard this from employees of Joint Communication and 911 Emergency Management.

The author cites the need for, “an internal investigation of funds and also of personnel,”  due to employees abusing sick leave and sleeping while on duty — insinuating that the meager funds allocated to the department are being mishandled.

Before voters approve an egregious tax increase, or any tax increase at all for 911/Joint Comm, it looks to me like the departments need to be cleaned up. If we can’t trust the leaders of Joint Communications to work efficiently and ethically with their current jalopy budget, how can we trust them once they are on the Proposition 1 Cadillac Plan?

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I realize that an anonymous letter might seem a bit “fishy” to some folks, but I assure you that I don’t have the time to manufacture such a ruse. My lovely wife, who is far less outspoken than me, retrieved the mail and watched me open it late last night after I returned home from the KCF/MoCLA candidate forum. Of course, I could have mailed a letter to myself, but did not. Although exhausted from a long day that found me eating dinner at 10PM, I was up late, tickled by the thought of receiving an anonymous letter dripping with bureaucratic political intrigue.

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No Sunset On The 911 Tax Hike

Just when I thought the list of problems with Boone County Proposition #1, the 911 tax increase, couldn’t conceivably grow any longer, another problem has come to light. The newest problem might actually be the biggest problem of all. It seems that the authors of the tax increase and funding plan failed to write a sunset provision into the proposal.

The new sales tax, that will affect every purchase from food to Ferraris, will generate an estimated $9.3 million annually. Of this $9.3 million, $2.2 million will repay the bond debt incurred to purchase $8.7 million worth of new equipment and build an $11.3 million above-ground bunker. $6.4 million of the $9.3 million will fund the annual budget. That leaves around $600,000 unaccounted for, but who’s counting?

So what happens if the economy recovers and the new sales tax generates more funds than estimated? Even without an economic boom the CID sales tax far outperformed estimations. So what happens to the $2.2 million in annual debt payments when the bond debt is completely retired?

My guess is that it will become the only two words Boone County politicians and bureaucrats love to hear more than “tax increase…,”

…SLUSH FUND!

And remember, it’s only $2.2 million if the economy fails to improve and we fail to add the extra $600,000 into the slushy equation.

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Without a sunset provision, this tax has the potential to create a slush fund well in excess of $3 million per year. What more could a rural Missouri county government ask for?

With both the proposed and impending state sales tax increases coupled with the 911 tax, Columbia’s sales tax will be pushed to at least 8% with the possibility of ending up well over 9%. Our city and county governments will get a taxpayer bailout after decades of poor financial stewardship. We will have an Emergency Management castle on the Sheriff’s campus that was neither vetted by the public nor subject to competition from any alternative plans. This grandiose plan and budget will be controlled by just three county commissioners and an advisory board comprised of government bureaucrats and a few hand-picked citizens. And all the while the City of Columbia will go on wasting money on parking garages, airline guarantees, and refinishing Blind Boone’s bathroom instead of funding public safety — all on the backs of our hardworking taxpayers.

Oh yes, and Boone County will have its very own slush fund as soon that the debt is paid.

We must stop this silliness and demand that our elected leaders come back to the table with a reasonable plan and a new set of fiscal priorities that put basic public safety at the top of the list and pet projects at the bottom.

Boone County 911 Emergency Management and Joint Communication must be fixed immediately without further burdening the taxpayer.

Vote NO on Boone County Proposition #1 on April 2nd

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Financing Our Own Financial Demise

The government is using your tax dollars against you, financing the campaign for a tax increase.

Last night I attended the Boone County Pachyderms meeting to listen to the debate about the proposed 911 tax hike. The ever-principled and polite Steve Spellman made well-reasoned arguments against the tax increase and against the hastily ill-conceived plan to rebuild the entire 911 department.

Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson and Joel Bullard, member of the Blue Ribbon Panel which devised the plan, both spoke in favor of the plan.

All three speakers made the case that the the Boone County 911 system is in need of a serious overhaul. Where they differed was on how it should be financed and the need for and feasibility of the grandiose plan.

Mr. Bullard gave the usual “it’s for the children” argument, and both he and Thompson cited anecdotes where 911 emergency callers were placed on hold. Bullard also said, “The sheriff came to us and said that he needed 25 employees, so we gave him 25 employees.”

Everyone knows that when a government wants something, it sets up a panel of yes-men (and yes-women) to formulate a plan. When the sheriff asked for 25 employees, did anyone ask if the job could be done by 20 employees?

From the discussion after the presentations it became clear that a privatization option was not explored. Since the Boone County Fairgrounds was mismanaged by the county for decades and only pulled back from jaws of bankruptcy after being turned over to a private company for management, it seems like the privatization option should have been explored. If Ed Robb’s tenure on the commission had not been cut tragically short, I’d bet privatization would have been on the table. Considering that with Ed’s untimely departure we were left with three big-government Democrats on the commission, a tax increase for bureaucratic growth is par for the course.

In fact, no other options were explored. If the county said it needed an $11.3 million building, the Blue Ribbon Panel said, “OK.” There was no out-of-the-box thinking. It seems there was no thinking at all. Like most bad government plans, this deal was rushed through a vetting theater and rushed to the voters with no public input.

As should be clear by now, Keep Columbia Free has mounted official opposition to this new tax. We believe that the city and county should use existing money to fix the problem. Over the past four decades our leadership has squandered our tax money on silly projects while ignoring 911 Emergency Management and Joint Communication. The city and the county have failed to cooperate, each grabbing their proverbial slice of pie and each refusing to fund 911. Instead, our city leaders have spent $22 million on a giant parking garage that sat empty until the city decided to lease spots to its own departments, are building the Short Street garage to serve private developers with an initial cost of $12 million, offered a $3.1 million underwriting package to American Airlines, spent $28 million painting bike lanes that make intersections dangerous, paving unneeded bike paths along Providence, and $3 million of that to market the bike ideas, and are now considering a $500,000 investment in the Blind Boone home. Our local government is like a gambling addict who loses his paycheck at the black jack table and then asks a friend for money to pay his electric bill.

Shouldn’t the 911 service have been funded before these silly plans? Shouldn’t these various local governments find a way to cut the waste and apply those savings to the 911 issue?

As the only official opposition group, our task seems like an uphill climb, especially when we are working against paid government employees who are spending public man-hours actively campaigning in favor of the new tax. How do regular citizens stand a chance against these well-paid officials? Isn’t it ethically questionable for paid employees of the county to campaign to fill their own coffers? All three Boone County Commissioners have been making the rounds speaking in favor of the tax increase and all three commissioners are each paid well over $80,000 per year. Sheriff Carey has also been actively campaigning in favor of the tax. The Sheriff makes well over $100,000 per year.

Since these officials are paid by our tax dollars, dollars that are taken from us by law whether we like it or not, when we pay our county taxes are we not funding the campaign for this tax increase? When the county spends public money campaigning to raise taxes it seems to me to be a clear violation of basic ethics. How in the world can normal people compete with the deep pockets of a government monopoly?

 

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Keep Columbia Free Opposes New 911 Tax

Download printable press release HERE

There is little doubt that the Boone County Emergency Management and Joint Communications 911 system faces serious operational challenges and difficulties. Something should be done to address its problems, but a tax hike to fund an exorbitant, unaccountable budget is not the correct approach.

Taxes are already high and this proposed tax increase will push the sales tax rate in many local stores to over 8 percent. A tax increase on basic goods is ill-conceived, especially when many families are struggling to survive in a troubled economy.

In fact, we citizens are already paying enough to fund these emergency operations, but decades of financial mismanagement at the hands of elected officials and government bureaucrats have squandered these funds. Our elected officials have neglected these fundamental emergency services in favor of other more glamorous and less needed budgetary objectives aimed at making headlines rather than providing safety. The proposed tax hike is nothing more than a bailout from the taxpayer for these elected leaders who have misspent our hard-earned tax dollars.

The proposed 911 budget stands as an excessive increase that will more than triple the current annual budget, moving it from $2.7 million to $8.7 million, and concentrate $20 million in the hands of just three county commissioners in the first year alone. These professional politicians, each with an annual salary in excess of $80,000, rule by consensus. No guarantees and few details have been released about the planned $11.3 million building or how the remainder of the $20 million lump sum and the $8.7 million annual budget will be spent. It is wrongheaded to take these extra funds from the citizens and pay them to the county government where there is limited representation, no firm plans for the new multi-million dollar building, no accountability, and no guarantee that our current crop of elected officials and appointed bureaucrats will be better stewards of these funds than those of the past.

We demand that politicians find a way to adequately fund and manage our 911 services without further burdening the hardworking taxpayers of Boone County. We demand that our elected officials examine their spending priorities and work within their existing means.

Please VOTE “NO” on Proposition #1 (the 911 tax) on April 2nd.

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