County dials up new cell phone tax Additional 30-cent charge to begin next month

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All Oneida County residents with cellphones will pay an extra 30 cents a month for each cellphone line they may have starting next month.

The new surcharge is designed to generate revenue to pay for costs associated with the county’s emergency 911 system.

The resolution adopted unanimously, 23-0, by the Board of Legislators on June 14 allows the county to add a 30-cent surcharge on all wireless devices on a recurring monthly bill and on prepaid wireless services.

Next year’s county budget anticipates nearly $975,000 from the new surcharge.

Unlike most counties around New York, Oneida is among the last to impose a monthly fee on wireless phone service.

The county began looking at imposing the wireless surcharge about seven years ago, but was never able to receive the necessary state approvals. However, language in the 2017-18 state budget, adopted in April, addressed this situation, enabling counties without their own cellphone taxes to impose them.

The surcharge will be collected by the service provider and then distributed to the state, which will then pass most of the money to the
county.

A small portion of the 30 cents will be retained to cover administrative costs.

For many years Oneida County has collected 35 cents a month on landline phone service to help fund its 911 system.

This revenue stream has diminished over time as more people drop their landlines and switch to wireless phone services.

In 2016, the county collected $335,180 from the landline levy. The anticipated 2017 amount is nearly $310,000.

The state already collects its own public safety surcharge from cellphone users who are charged $1.20 a month. The new county levy will be an additional surcharge.

Much of the state surcharge has not made it back to counties although some of the state fee has been used in grants to county emergency services departments.

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