Commission discusses 911 funding

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/19

What began as a discussion about whether or not Maries County is receiving a small tax when pre-paid phone cards are purchased in the county, ended up with a call to a member of the Missouri 911 …

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Commission discusses 911 funding

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What began as a discussion about whether or not Maries County is receiving a small tax when pre-paid phone cards are purchased in the county, ended up with a call to a member of the Missouri 911 Service Board seeking more information. Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman called Ken Scott, who represents second, third and fourth class counties on the board.

Treasurer Rhonda Slone said the county gets a little bit of revenue from the pre-paid cards, but is doesn’t amount to much. The county never opted out so it is part of the program. Maries County receives about $500 a year from the pre-paid phone card fee. Currently, the way it is set up, the county receives 40% of the revenue and the 911 Service Board receives 60%. Stratman said right now they are building up the fund and the county’s percentage should be higher in the future. They spoke about the board wanting to see consolidation where possible and Slone wondered if Belle having its police dispatching out of Osage County would mean Maries County is not consolidated.

The commissioners wanted to speak to Scott who was contacted and the call was heard on speaker phone by all three of the commissioners. The board’s stated purpose is to review existing and proposed legislation; provide recommendations for model systems considered in preparing a model 911 service plan; and provide requested mediation services to political subdivisions involved in 911 jurisdictional disputes.

Scott said the fee on the pre-paid cards is three percent and the county get some of this through the county treasurer. The other part of the money stays with the board for its activities to encourage consolidation with other county, which is a coordinated start place of the process of improving 911 in Missouri.

He said with consolidation of services, they are trying to draw boundaries. Counties that have 911 centers share similarities and they hope that several will link up and share infrastructure and costs. It will depend on the local county and there are no plans set in place at this time. But, the board acts as a resource and explores how it can link up to save money and find the expertise to help counties.

Scott said the state won’t come to the county. He was told the 911 center is in the sheriff’s office with dispatchers. Scott asked if the county is consolidated and was told by Stratman that Belle dispatches out of Osage County. Scott said then the county is not totally consolidated. He suggested looking into getting together with Osage County or another county or a combination of counties. He said he knows the sheriffs get excited when they talk about consolidating because they fear losing local control. But, what he is talking about is a 911 Center to take the calls and then feeds them out to have it dispatched. This takes cooperation and it needs to be right but is harder to get done. It is easier and not necessarily bad to consolidate as most counties still have their dispatchers.

The only funding now is the revenue received from land lines, which are swiftly going away. Scott said the $1 fee on cell phones is the only fee they could get from Missouri.  It’s more money and it goes to the Department of Revenue and it comes back to Maries County. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre asked if the county will lose the land line revenue if it is able to pass a cell phone fee for 911. Scott said he’s not sure, but knows the land line fee goes off if a sales tax for 911 is passed, but the sales tax provides a lot more money. He said he will check.

The commissioners plan to ask voters for the $1 surcharge on cell phones to benefit the county’s 911 Dispatch Center. Previously, the commissioners planned to run this in April 2020 as it failed to receive voter approval in April 2019. However, the Maries R-1 School District is planning to run a no tax increase issue asking voters to retain the district’s 40 cent debt service levy to pay for capital improvements at the school campus in Vienna. Fagre said if the school is running one on the April ballot, the county probably should not run the 911 surcharge on the same ballot because they voters will say, “We’re stacking taxes.”

Slone said the county is spending $20,000 more for 911 this year. The money is coming out of the general revenue fund. Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said they don’t want to wait too long as in three or four years, the money to pay for 911 will be gone.

No Pull at All

Following the salary commission meeting last Thursday, there was discussion about how to change the prosecuting attorney’s position from a part time job to a full time job. Maries County Prosecuting Attorney Anthony “Tony” Skouby said the big counties control everything. They’ve have their retirement funded and they don’t want the little counties to be in their pot. The Kansas City area has a lot of control and pull.

Treasurer Rhonda Slone said the prosecutor’s retirement is not as good as the retirement for other county officials. Skouby said there are 18 small counties. With his current retirement plan as a prosecutor, he can work for 12 years and the retirement pay is $613 a month. “We have no pull at all,” Skouby said about small counties. Slone said they should check to see if the prosecutor’s can be included in the retirement plan with other county officials. She said there is no incentive for a prosecutor to stay in that position in Maries County.

To this, Skouby said, “I love this job. When I come to work, I make a difference.” He said he enjoys the people he works with. Slone said she’s thankful the county officials get along.

Growing

County Collector Jayne Williams said Maries County is growing and she thinks the increasing number of tax bills she sends out in late October and early November is an indicator. When she first began working as the collector in 1999, Williams said the county sent out about 9,000 tax bills. Today, in 2019, her office is sending out about 15,000 tax bills. Kingsford Charcoal has the biggest tax bill in the county, she said.

Insurance

The commissioners wanted to have a discussion with their liability, property, vehicles and equipment insurance agent to see if the premium can be reduced. Jennifer Gerling of the Wallstreet Group handles this for the county. The recent renewal was $13,000 more than the previous year and it is a big bill at $98,552 annually for this insurance.

Drewel said they don’t need a $500 deductible on an old truck. County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said $32,265 of the premium is law enforcement liability, which went up about $4,000. She said a big portion of that increase is liability. They wanted to look at local insurance companies also to see if there might be better rates on the vehicles. Stratman said if a vehicle is only worth $1,000, they don’t need a lot of insurance on it.

On Oct 31, Gerling came to talk to the commissioners. She said the company, MOPERM, will not reduce the rates but they can look at options for increasing deductibles. She said the property insurance went up because of the county’s claim on the deceased drug dog. She also suggested going through the list of vehicles to see if they can make any changes. Increasing a $250 deductible to $500 is not going to impact the increase. On equipment with a $1,000 deductible, raising it to $2,500 will save about $100 in premium, which is not that much. But, raising the courthouse building’s deductible from $1,000 to $5,000, would save $1,300 on premium. The courthouse building has an annual premium of about $14,000.

Drewel said the courthouse is a masonry building and if there was an earthquake, it will have problems. He suggested keeping the property deductible where it is because the county does not have a big surplus of cash. Now, the county can pay a little more in premium but could not pay for $100,000 in damages. The commissioners wanted to know if they have earthquake coverage on the building.

System Updates

IT Technician Shane Sweno spoke to the commissioners briefly about updating the operating systems on five assessor’s office computers, and five computers in the collector’s office. The cost will be $150 per computer to update them to Windows 10 Pro. They are all desktop computers and no big deal to install, Sweno said. The commissioners said if they need it, he should go for it.

IT Policy

An IT Policy was written and the all county elected officials were asked to read and initial their copy as an agreement to the policy. It states any office holder who wants to purchase computer equipment or have service provided by a person other than the courthouse IT Technician, then that office will be responsible for all expenses above the amount quoted by the county IT Tech, who also will have access to all county equipment.

On Nov. 4, the commissioners said the policy had been finalized as all county officials signed off on it.

Rodgers said they need the policy for the auditors as well.

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