Judge Rejects City’s Phone Fee for 911 Services
Union City officials said they will appeal a judge's ruling that a fee charged by the city on telephone services to fund 911 response and police and fire dispatch is a tax that cannot be assessed without voter approval, the Oakland Tribune reports.
The City Council in 2004 placed a $3.22 per month fee on almost all land and wireless telephone lines to fund emergency response services. The fee generates an average of $2.7 million annually to fund the services, according to Rich Digre, city director of administration services.
City Manager Larry Cheeves said other programs will have to be cut to pay for emergency services if the ruling is upheld. The city also could call for a vote to maintain the fee as a special tax.
Attorney David Colker, who represented two wireless phone companies in the case, said the ruling makes it possible for residents to ask for refunds of the fee, although he and city officials said issuing refunds would be complicated.
Meanwhile, the case could set a precedent for imposing such fees in the state. Stockton and Santa Cruz County have charged similar fees, and Davis last month began considering a similar law (Artz, Oakland Tribune, 4/26).