New state tax on 9-1-1 systems goes into effect
The state 9-1-1 tax on all phone bills increased from 75 cents to $1 starting on Jan. 1.
The tax is added to all phone bills statewide, plus retail transactions for pre-paid wireless purchases.
Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District Executive Director Mike Fletcher said the 9-1-1 districts have not received projections of 9-1-1 tax income from the state, but the 9-1-1 centers won't receive additional funding until the third quarter of 2020.
Columbia 9-1-1 Communication's 2019-2020 budget predicted $395,000 in revenue from the 9-1-1 tax, accounting for 4.6 percent of the annual revenue.
The tax hasn't increased since 1995.
"All the while, all of our costs of doing business continue to rise each year," Fletcher said. An increase "has been proposed and fought for by the 9-1-1 industry for years, because it has been stagnant ... It's a long time coming.
"Each of the centers get fewer and fewer dollars, and so we have to make up those differences internally, and some of that impact is cutting of services."
Columbia 9-1-1 has had to find other ways to fund things that state funding stopped covering, like the ability to text 9-1-1, rather than call; one of the five work stations for dispatchers; and equipment to transfer all calls to a different center if the 9-1-1 dispatch center must be evacuated.
The state 9-1-1 tax is separate from the 9-1-1 local option levy.
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