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Science and the Environment

Funding for Christian County Consolidated 911 Ahead of Schedule

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/fundingfor_4759.mp3

Christian County is in the process of preparing to consolidate its 9-1-1 dispatch system. It recently learned that it can begin collecting money from the sales tax voters approved in April to fund it, sooner than expected. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

Funding for a new 911 consolidated county wide emergency system in Christian County is ahead of schedule. James Bacon, chairman of Christian County Emergency Services, says originally, when they were proposing the sales tax, they were led to believe that they could not stop the land line surcharge until the end of December...

"The State of Missouri puts new sales taxes in place as of October 1st, but we could elect to move it to a different date. Because the land line charge couldn't stop until December, we were planning on starting the new sales tax January 1 because we did not want them to overlap, and we did not want the public to be double taxed."

But, since the Christian County 911 Emergency Services Board has been created, they've learned that they can stop the land line tarif at any time. Because of that, the new funding for 911 in Christian County will begin on October 1. The old tarif surcharge will be terminated on September 30...

"What this allows, under the original plan, we were going to start collecting the tax on January 1st, we would not receive an tax revenues until at least the 2nd quarter because taxes have to be paid to the state and then sent back to the governing body after the 1st quarter, which meant the city of Nixa, the Nixa Fire Protection District, the Christian County Commissioners were going to again have to supplement a portion of 2010."

According to Bacon, they've already committed to funding the 2009 budget shortfall. Collecting the sales tax starting October 1 gives the county's emergency services the ability to get the money into its coffers at the beginning of 2010. He says that will minimize, if not eliminate, the supplemental funding they'd need from the other entities involved to make 2010's budget.

Voters approved a 1/4 cent sales tax in April to fund a consolidated county wide 911 system...

"Being able to get this money in place earlier gives us the ability of identifying and hiring an administrator that we can start getting things in place to make that consolidation happen, so this puts us ahead of the game."

Bacon says the public won't notice any difference in their 911 service. He says it will be a 3 to 5 year process to consolidate the 911 system...

"The first phase is getting the shortfall of funding taken care of, the second phase is getting an administrator in place, the third phase is making every 911 dispatch in Christian County equitable in the benefits for the employees, to bring the staffing level up to handle what we are experiencing in our 911 calls and to create a standard, uniform operating procedure countywide. Then the next phase will be trying to bring forth the consolidation into one building."

Bacon says the 1/4 cent sales tax won't generate enough money in one year to build a new facility.

According to Bacon, currently, the Christian County 911 dispatchers and Nixa 911 dispatchers are able to communicate only by telephone. He says the new system is expected to increase response times.