Park County commissioners recently decided to reach out to their constituents before passing a new tax on phone lines, even though they have every legal authority to pass the increase with nothing …
Park County commissioners recently decided to reach out to their constituents before passing a new tax on phone lines, even though they have every legal authority to pass the increase with nothing more than a commission vote. This involves a very small cost to taxpayers, but it’s encouraging the commission would relinquish this authority to a more voter-involved process.
Currently, residents of Park County pay 50 cents on their phone bills mostly to provide for maintenance and upgrades of the county’s 911 emergency systems in Powell and Cody. The county now wants to increase this tax by 25 cents, which will cost phone customers $3 per year more on their bills.
The county nearly breaks even on its annual maintenance for the emergency system, but there’s no money leftover for upgrades. And sometimes, it goes into the red. For the sake of the future health of the 911 system, commissioners want to increase the fee.
At last week’s commission meeting, where the increase was discussed, the county attorney relayed to commissioners they don’t need any public hearing on the increase. They don’t even need to pass a resolution.
Despite this, Commission Chairman Jake Fulkerson and Commissioner Joe Tilden both suggested the commission hold a public hearing and pass a resolution before increasing the fee.
Kristen Tate, in her book “How Do I Tax Thee? A Guide to The Great American Ripoff,” reports on just how these small, hidden taxes on the federal, state, and local level add up. As much as 20 percent of the cost of an airline ticket is a series of small taxes, for example.
Where voters are less involved or more supportive of taxes, these really get absurd. In New York City, people pay a tax on a bagel if it’s sliced. The tax doesn’t apply if the bagel is bought whole.
Customers in New York State pay an average of over 24 percent in federal, state, and local taxes on their wireless bills, where the 911 fee is as high as $1.50. In many cities, the fee doesn’t go toward the 911 system. It goes into the city’s general fund. In Chicago, for example, the fee was increased in 2008 to pay for a bid on the 2016 Olympics. The bid was unsuccessful, but the fee was never removed.
These fees are small, barely noticeable on bills once enacted, and passed with little voter involvement. Most people in these cities don’t realize how much of everything they do gets taxed. And the taxes move in only one direction.
The 911 emergency system is vital to the health and safety of Park County residents, and the commission makes a good case why the fee should be increased. County voters are quite capable of determining that for themselves.
We’re glad the commissioners are taking steps to involve voters in this decision, and we hope voters avail themselves of the opportunity to provide their input on the issue. This is how democracy is supposed to work. It ensures government taxes and spends wisely — and that we here in Park County can enjoy a sliced bagel without paying government a fee for the privilege.