Public safety is a core responsibility of local government and one of the highest priorities for the elected officials in Boone County.
In order to meet this responsibility, at the March 7 meeting of the Fiscal Court, the County Commissioners and I affirmed our support for a new regional communications system and to ensure a proper funding source for the County’s 911 service.
Two commissioners and I approved a motion endorsing a 911 dwelling unit fee to fund these items and eliminated any consideration of all other options, including an insurance premium tax. The Court directed staff to prepare a draft ordinance consistent with this direction.
At the request of the Boone County Fire Chiefs Association, an independent consultant was retained to evaluate the County’s emergency communication system.
This comprehensive study clearly demonstrated that the pre-WW II UHF/VHF technology being utilized is at its end of life and does not meet the needs of first responders as the system does not allow firefighters and police officers to talk to each other, coupled with significant gaps in coverage, potentially leaving first responders in very dangerous situations. All three Northern Kentucky counties share similar challenges and have moved forward together to implement a regional solution in order to provide the most cost effective and efficient system.
The current 911 landline fee was designed to fund the operation of 911 services to the county; however, the rapid transition from landline phones to cell phones has created substantial funding shortfalls. Today, the county must subsidize the 911 service significantly and the subsidy continues to grow each year. A 911 dwelling unit fee allows us to fund 911 services and to eliminate the current landline fee.
Providing emergency communications and services is costly.
A range of funding strategies was suggested by County Commissioners and developed by county administration utilizing the very limited choices available to local governments. Many potential options such as sales, restaurant and cell phone taxes are not permitted for local governments in Kentucky.
Beginning in December of 2016, the county began publicly discussing potential alternatives at open meetings of the fiscal court, at community group meetings, on the website and with the public via phone calls and e-mails. The County has continued to revise its approach based on the input from the community which has led us to the 911 dwelling unit fee.
A dwelling fee is a fee tied to a direct service, in this case emergency communications, assessed to each unit with a physical address within the county. This includes single family, each unit in a multi-family dwelling and industrial/commercial buildings.
The 911 dwelling unit fee will be collected annually at the same time as property taxes and is dedicated only for funding emergency communication. Based on the operation of the 911 center and the projected cost of the system, a fee will likely be in the range of $90. In addition, the portion of the rate dedicated to the purchase of the new communications system will sunset, or go away, once the system is paid in full.
The Court will take final action in April as the cost of the system and ordinance is finalized. As an elected body take our duty to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars very seriously.
We are also committed to ensuring that we have all of the tools necessary to protect our first responders and the public. I am so proud to lead a local government so committed to transparency and collaboration in service to you. As we near the end of this process, I urge you to visit the county website’s transparency tab to view information and a video explaining the issue.
It is an honor to serve as your Judge/Executive and I will continue to strive to ensure that Boone County is always a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Gary Moore is Boone County Judge-executive