Stockton City Council Approves Monthly Telephone Fee To Fund 911 Services; Sacramento Officials Consider Similar Fee
The Stockton City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to implement a new monthly $1.50 fee for users of land-based and mobile telephones to fund the city's 911 dispatch system, the Stockton Record reports. Companies or residents with high-capacity lines will pay $36 per month. The fee, which is expected to generate $4.7 million in annual revenue, will help fund new locations and greater space for the dispatch centers, computer upgrades, a backup system and more dispatchers, according to city Police Chief Mark Herder. Herder added that the fee, which was originally proposed at $2.50 per month, will help the dispatch system handle the expected 10,000 additional calls each month after it takes over responsibility from the California Highway Patrol for fielding emergency calls from mobile phones. The fee is expected to begin appearing on phone bills in October.
Critics of the fee said that 911 access is a "basic government service" and that the "so-called fee" is actually a tax requiring voter approval, the Record reports. Gregory Turner, an attorney for the California Taxpayer Association said, "This isn't about need as much as process. We have a process in California for asking voters to approve taxes. This goes back to the old argument that the ends don't justify the means." Turner said that other cities have faced legal opposition to similar fees. Council member Larry Ruhstaller, who voted for the fee, said, "I don't like adding fees, but I would also hate to tell the library to absorb another round of cuts because we have to fund the police and fire departments" (Cooper, Stockton Record, 6/9).
In related news, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council are considering whether to establish 911 maintenance fees of at least $2 a month for land-based phones, the Sacramento Bee reports. Under the proposal, businesses would be charged as much as $20 a month and residents at most $2.70 a month; businesses in the city would be charged no more than $27 a month; and city residents as much as $3.60 a month. The fee would not apply to phone lines for hospitals, not-for-profit groups, schools and state and federal agencies. The fee also would not be charged to cell phone users. Officials say the fee would cover as much as $16.5 million of the 911 service's $25.8 million annual budget and would be used to fund personnel, training, software and other system upgrades. The county board and city council will conduct hearings on the issue on Tuesday, and the fee could be in place by 2005 (Jahn, Sacramento Bee, 6/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.