September 25, 2020

911 Funding Impacted by Typographical Error

Voters Approve 9-1-1 Funding Levy with Typo

In May, the Columbia County 9-1-1 Communications District in St. Helens, Oregon put forth a tax levy for funding to their voters to approve an operations levy taxing property owners “.29 cents per $1,000” of assessed property value. Although the wording on the ballot had been proofed by several individuals, the ballots were distributed to voters with that language. Columbia County’s intentions with the levy were to request 29 cents per $1000. Voters approved the item by 74%; however, based upon the ballot’s language, the ballot language really meant that only a fraction of 1 cent was approved by the voters.

Related Story: Misplaced decimal point means Oregon county’s 911 system could be out millions

This unfortunate typographical error means not only did Columbia County not get an increase in funding, but will actually have to realize a reduction in future revenue. The potential revenue stream over a 5-year period will be reduced from $7.92 million to just $79,200. The 9-1-1 district will use reserve funds to bridge the funding gap to continue daily 9-1-1 operations which employees 15 public-safety telecommunicators.

Correcting Error Faces Opposition

The 9-1-1 district is trying to persuade a judge to allow the higher rate that was intended in the ballot; however, this faces an uphill battle. A local citizen, Tyler Miller, has filed a lawsuit in the county circuit court to prevent the 9-1-1 district from getting the funding. Mr. Miller openly opposed the ballot before its vote making several allegations about the personnel managing Columbia 9-1-1. In addition to the court filing, Mr. Miller has erected a public web page outlining his allegations and encouraged the citizens to vote against the levy. While Mr. Miller’s web page was not successful in its goal, time will tell if the judge will grant the district’s request of if they will need to wait until the cycle to place the tariff on the ballot once again to correct the error.

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