Battle Underway Over Cellphone Surcharge In St. Lawrence County

Battle Underway Over Cellphone Surcharge In St. Lawrence County

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There's no argument on one thing: fewer people have landline phones. That means St. Lawrence County's income from a surcharge on those is dropping.

That money is needed to support its Emergency Services Department.

But when it comes to imposing a new surcharge on cellphones to make up the difference, some county legislators are drawing the line.

“I was opposed because I saw it as an additional tax. It was touted as a surcharge. But you can call it a surcharge, a fee, it's still a tax,” said Larry Denesha, St. Lawrence County legislator:

The county legislature split right down the middle on the issue in a 7-7 vote. So it failed to pass.

But it also means declining landline revenue will continue to produce budget gaps. Proponents stress it's for public safety.

“The proposal was basically 30 cents per device, which would roughly be 1 cent per day. And I think 1 cent per day to save a life is pretty inexpensive,” said Kevin Acres, St. Lawrence County legislator.

The county-wide 911 center is located the St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Department. It's where the rubber meets the road on this issue.  

Go inside, and they'll tell you some form of additional income has to be found to keep services at their current level.

“The reality is when someone picks up their phone, whether it's a landline or cell phone and dial 911, they expect someone to answer that phone and provide the emergency responses they're asking for,” said Michael LeCuyer, director St. Lawrence County Emergency Services.

Legislators on both sides of the issue expect it to come back. But for now, it won't cost you any more to have that cellphone in St. Lawrence County.

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