"A taxpayer bailout of government mismanagement."
By Bill Weitkemper

COLUMBIA, 3/27/13 (Op Ed) -- Something must be done to improve the 911 system, but a sales tax increase is not the answer. It is a taxpayer bailout of government mismanagement.
A sales tax increase will impact the elderly, disabled, people on fixed incomes, and people making minimum wage and trying to raise a family, pay bills, feed and clothe children. Times are hard enough for lower-income and middle-income people, and a tax increase would only add to their burden.

The 911 system operational difficulties did not occur overnight, but after years of mismanagement.

There are thirteen county-wide agencies supported by the present 911 service. The City of Columbia and Boone County currently fund most of the 911 budget.
The tax increase plans include a new $11.4 million operations center and $20 million in new debt. [Ed. Note: The new operations center was described in a Trib article as a "three-story palace with gym, showers, and other amenities not generally furnished to employees in the private sector."]
The tax increase would generate about $9.3 million a year, more than triple the current $2.7 million budget. The tax revenue would be split, retiring the bond debt and funding annual costs of 911 operations.

City Manager Mike Matthes has, perhaps unethically, attempted to influence the outcome of the ballot issue. He has said that if the tax increase passes, the city would avoid layoffs and hire more firefighters and police officers.

The City must take the lead and dedicate the current $1.9 million city budget surplus to funding 911 services. Boone County must re-evaluate the proposed $11.3 million operations center. Both organizations must figure out how to improve 911 operations from their current tax bases.
And most of all, City and county officials must be held accountable.

Bill Weitkemper is a 4th Ward City Council candidate and the first recipient of the Ed Robb Award for Public Service