Funding for safety in Gallatin County was the topic of an Oct. 24 public meeting called at the Gallatin County Courthouse by Steve Galt, chairman of the Gallatin County Emergency Telephone System Board. He spoke on behalf of the 911 Emergency Telephone System question on the November general election ballot which, if passed, will raise the surcharge for the system.
Gallatin County Sheriff Shannon Bradley also urged passage of the Public Safety Tax question on the ballot.
Galt noted that changes in technology and consumer telephone usage is depleting the 911 system's financial reserves.
A Gallatin County ordinance passed in the early 1990s established a surcharge on each land-line telephone in the county. Those monies were used to create and maintain the 911 system.
“We had 2,400 land line phones in the county when we started,” Galt said. “We now have 1,200. Our expenses keep going up, but our revenue has been cut in half.”
He noted the 911 system receives 0.53 revenue from cell phones, but added that “This vote does not apply to cell phones.”
“It's just not keeping up,” he said, referring to the 911 system revenue. “We've cut all the bells and whistles out of the system.”
Galt estimated the system can run for 15 to 16 months, drawing on its current reserves, but then — if the referendum does not pass — emergency dispatching for Gallatin County “will be history,” he said.
The ballot question asks voters to approve a $1.05 per month raise for the 911 surcharge. That additional charge is equivalent to “just one Coke a month,” Galt said.
Galt asked voters to “Please keep 911 service in Gallatin County. Vote 'yes',” He expressed thanks from the entire Gallatin County Emergency Telephone System Board.
Sheriff Bradley said everyone hates to talk about raising taxes, but said the proposed Public Safety Tax is needed.
That ballot question asks: “To pay for public safety purposes, shall Gallatin County be authorized to impose an increase on its share of local sales taxes by One Percent?”
The sheriff noted that Gallatin County residents are already paying that tax “every time you shop in Saline, White, Williamson, Jackson or Union County, Ky.” Those counties, he said, already have a public safety tax added on to their sales tax.
The ballot question also states: “This would mean that a consumer would pay an additional $1.00 in sales tax for every $100 of tangible personal property bought at retail.”
Bradley said estimates are the tax would generate about $180,000 per year to fund public safety operations within the county.
He said three-fourths of that tax revenue, about $140,000, would go to county safety services, and one-quarter, about $40,000, would go to local communities to fund law enforcement, fire protection and ambulance services.
Page 2 of 2 - Bradley pointed out that the state is in default on paying its share of public safety expenses within the county, and that passage of the safety tax is badly needed.
“We're not trying to get rich,” he said. “We're just trying to maintain what we've got.”