Members of Keep Columbia Free are urging Boone County residents to vote no on Proposition #1.
Proposition #1 is a sales tax, also known as the Joint Communications 911 Initiative, that will appear on the April 2 ballot. The proposition would impose a new 3/8 cent county-wide sales tax for funding a county-wide joint communications and dispatch center and for the funding of emergency management services.
The sales tax would fund updates for the Boone County Public Service Joint Communications Task Force call center and emergency management services. These upgrades would included adding staff members to meet current demand, information technology, equipment upgrades and constructing a new Joint Communications/911 Dispatch Center and Emergency Management Center in one location.
In a news release, Keep Columbia Free president Mark Flakne pointed to financial mismanagement within the Boone County Emergency Management and Joint Communications 911 system, demanding that politicians find ways to adequately fund and manage 911 services without increasing taxes and asking elected officials examine their spending priorities and work within their existing means. Something should be done to address its problems, according to the release, but the group believes a tax hike to fund the "unaccountable" budget is not the correct approach.
"Elected officials have neglected these fundamental emergency services in favor of other more glamourous and less-needed budgetary objectives aimed at making headlines rather than providing safety," Flakne wrote in the news release. "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 911 sales tax would increase the annual budget by more than 300 percent.
According to a news release sent out by Sheriff Dwayne Carey and inspirational speaker Kim Becking in support of the sales tax, Boone County's PSJC does not meet national safety standards because, on average, 130 calls per month made to the 911 system are not answered within 60 seconds, and some take longer than three or four minutes.
"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," Flakne wrote in the news release. "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."