Tax on telephone calls before Island County Commissioners

It may get slightly more expensive to make a phone call in Island County next year.

The Island County commissioners are set to consider an increase in the excise taxes on land lines and cell phones, plus a new excise tax on internet phone service. The money will be used to fund I-COM, the county’s 911 emergency dispatch center.

The commissioners, however, may not have much of a choice. Tom Shaughnessy, the director of I-COM, explained that state law requires the county to charge the maximum in phone excise taxes, or they will lose state funding. I-COM will receive about $172,000 from the state next year, if the ordinance passes.

The requirement to set the tax at the maximum is nothing new. What’s changed is the maximum amount, along with the county’s ability to levy a tax on voice over Internet protocol service lines.

Currently, the excise tax is 50 cents a month for regular phone lines and cell phones.

Under the new ordinance, the tax will be 70 cents a month for land lines, cell phones and Internet-based phone lines.

Shaughnessy said the increase in excise taxes will bring in an extra $180,000 next year and an extra $220,000 in 2012. The I-COM board could decide to use the extra money to lower 911 fees that are charged to the user jurisdictions, build a reserve or perhaps both.

The ordinance is set to be considered at the commissioners’ meeting Monday at 2 p.m.

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