LIBERTY, Mo. — As the population grows and technology changes, Clay County leaders are asking voters to approve a new fee to fund the 911 system.
Proposition A on the Nov. 7 ballot asks if Clay County can impose a $1 monthly fee on any wireless device capable of calling 911.
“As a county person, I can’t advocate for it,” Clay County Sheriff’s Office Public Relations Manager Sarah Boyd said.
Boyd says Sheriff Will Akin wants people to vote yes on the issue, though. She says 911 is a vital source of connection someone can get in a time when they need it the most.
“I think he’s concerned that there may not be the funding for that in the future,” Boyd said of Akin’s beliefs.
“Those costs are going up about 7% annually. If this doesn’t pass, he’s concerned about where the money will have to come from to continue to pay the bill for it. We’re going to keep paying that bill, but where will the money come from? Will it come out of public safety? Will it come out of roads and bridges? Will it come out of parks? It’s going to have to come out from somewhere.”
Currently, the county raises its funding for the local 911 system with a tax on landline phones. That was implemented in 1993.
But as the number of landlines in Clay County — and across the country — declines, the county said it has been pulling money from other sources to cover the cost.
This year, Clay County will pay over $1.1 million for its portion of the emergency communications system, managed by the Mid-America Regional Council.
The regional 911 service covers 11 counties, and each county’s costs are based on population. As Clay County’s population grows, its costs for emergency communications has grown as well.
Clay County resident Jackie Schiller said she’d vote yes on this issue in November.
“Clay County is growing so rapidly that they need security as far as protection for something like 9-1-1,” Schiller said.
But fees from landline phones only cover about $218,000 of the $1.1 million in 911 costs, according to the sheriff’s department.
“So, there’s an $850,000 deficit at least, and I think that’s grown since we started putting out information about it,” Boyd said.
Meanwhile, 80% of 911 calls in Clay County came from wireless devices in 2022.
That’s why the Clay County Commission has placed a question on the Nov. 7 ballot, asking voters to approve a $1 monthly fee on wireless devices.
Officials said the fee would appear on your phone bill if it’s issued to a Clay County address.
Additionally, if voters approve the fee for wireless devices, ballot language says the 911 charge for landlines will be eliminated.
Clay County leaders said the monthly fee will also allow them to implement new technology that will better locate 911 callers, allow dispatchers to accept videos and photos, and more.
Any surplus revenue from the fee would go to maintaining and upgrading dispatch centers.
Akin’s also holding two upcoming town hall meetings about Proposition A. One’s Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the North Oak Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library from 6 to 7 p.m. The other’s on Thursday, November 2nd from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Woodneath Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.