By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The code change is a requirement of a new state law that shifts the point of collection from service providers to prepaid wireless retailers for the 70-cent-per-month excise tax for emergency communications.
County commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the code amendment after a brief public hearing Tuesday.
“It’s not a new tax,” said Steve Romberg, communications manager for Peninsula Communications, which dispatches 9-1-1 calls for Clallam County.
“This action just allows us to recover the tax collected in the county.”
The 2013 legislation added no-contract, prepaid cellphones, which are being used by about one-third of all wireless customers nationwide, to the 9-1-1 excise tax that was already being collected on other types of cellphones and land lines.
The new state law took effect Jan. 1.
Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher recommended the code amendment in a commissioners work session April 21.
Peninsula Communications, or PenCom, is a division of the Port Angeles Police Department.
Avoid revenue loss
“Passage of this amendment should be revenue neutral, however, failure to enact the ordinance could result in significant revenue loss,” Gallagher wrote in a memo to commissioners.
“It is difficult to accurately predict the impact as the law did not distinguish between prepaid and postpaid wireless service prior to the legislative action.”
Other counties, including Kitsap and Jefferson, have already updated their code to reflect the new law, Gallagher told commissioners.
The state Legislature in 2010 raised the excise tax for enhanced 9-1-1 services from 50 cents per month to 70 cents per month.
The state collects an additional 25-cent-per-month 9-1-1 service fee, Romberg said.
PenCom provides emergency dispatch services to the Port Angeles police and fire departments, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, Sequim police, Lower Elwha and LaPush tribal police, Olympic National Park rangers and four fire districts.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.