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Why Are Chesterfield Residents Paying More for Fire Dispatch?

Residents of the Monarch FPD pick up the lion's share in cost, plus face potential double taxation for 9-1-1 service.

The figures are in.

Talk at a recent Monarch Fire Protection Board of Directors meetings indicated no one was upset at being overcharged for fire dispatching in 2011, or that residents of the fire district will be overcharged again in 2012.

In 2011 the average cost to dispatch a fire or EMS call via the Central County Emergency 911 (CCE911) fire dispatch center in Ellisville was $106.47.

Residents of the Monarch District were charged $163.84 per call. Town and Country paid more at $169.40 a call, but they bailed out in a way, and will pay less in 2012.

Chesterfield residents are left holding the bag to underwrite the dispatch service. 

(See supporting documents under PDFs with photo at right.)

The shared center dispatches fire and EMS calls for nine fire districts and fire departments (plus charges the City of Town and Country for dispatch calls.)

Founding partners

Revenue for the dispatch center is based on assessed valuation of real estate property in each of the original communities that created the fire dispatch center. They are:

  • Creve Coeur FPD,
  • Maryland Heights FPD,
  • Metro West FPD,
  • Monarch FPD,
  • West county EMS &FPD and the
  • City of Town and Country.

Fifteen months ago, one of my first columns showed Monarch residents paying $42 too much for every call dispatched in 2009. After two years, overcharging has gone up to $57 a call—a 37 percent hike.

Since Chesterfield and Town and Country have the highest assessed property valuation of the original stakeholders of the dispatch center, they have had to pay far more than the other districts.

Town and Country leaders said enough and gave up their ownership rights of the dispatch center, and are on a simple service contract. Based on 2011 volume, in 2012 Town and Country dropped its cost per call to $111 and saving about $118,000 a year.

How much?

Chesterfield residents who pay a .05 property tax per $100 assessed valuation for fire dispatching are not catching much of a break in 2012—saving only about $60,000 total due to lower assessed property values.

Monarch residents would be paying $154 per call this year, with an average call at $104, based on similar call volume.

To add insult to the matter, CCE911 took on two new contract agencies late in 2011, Frontenac Fire Department and Des Peres Public Safety Department.

Frontenac pays on average $27.76 per call—$136 less than the folks in the Monarch FPD. But I think we can all admit that properties in Frontenac are actually more expensive than in Chesterfield.

Why?

At recent Monarch Fire Board meetings there was talk of what an excellent job CCE911 dispatchers do.

An official from Local 2662 of the firefighters union spoke against a move that would allow St. Louis County to take over Monarch fire dispatch and pay for it through the countywide 911 sales tax. It could also mean a tax reduction for Chesterfield residents.

But the dispatchers at CCE911 are all members of Local-2662.

The question has to be asked: Why would Monarch Fire Protection District residents be double taxed for dispatch services, with a five percent property tax and a sales tax dedicated to 911 services?

Editor's note: The 911 tax so far has paid for sirens, not dispatch.

Compare 2011

Here were the 2011 average costs per dispatch by Ellisville-based CCE911:

Town and Country        $169.40

Monarch FPD               163.84

WCEMS&FPD                 117.04

Creve Coeur FPD            114.06

Metro West FPD             113.93

Average Cost               106.47

Maryland Heights FPD    100.34

Meramec Amb Dist          51.38

St. Clair FPD                   51.22

Des Peres PSD                31.91

Frontenac FD                  27.76   

Thomas Vineyard February 07, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Mr. Hoffmann, Residents of the Monarch Fire Protection District are NOT being double taxed for 911 dispatch services. The sales tax in which you refer to was a county wide initiative passed a few years ago. The money generated from that tax is dedicated to pay for tornado sirens countywide, enhanced 911 cellular tracking capabilites and equipment upgrades to meet upcoming FCC requirements, etc. The sales tax does NOT pay for dispatching services. While St. Louis County is in the process of building a dispatch center which could include dispatching fire and ems, a cost for that service has yet to be established. Central County Emergency 911 has a state of the art dispatch center in which its dispatchers deliver the highest quality of emergency dispatch services to our residients. The Monarch Fire District is dedicated to providing it's residents with the highest quality of emergency services at a reasonable cost, if aother option for emergency dispatch becomes available at a lower cost without compromising the excellent quality of service our citizens deserve, it is an option the District will certainly explore.
John Hoffmann February 08, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Chief Vineyard's comments don't give quite the whole picture. The new 9-1-1 sales tax was for the tornado siren upgrade and to enchance cellphone tracking. But there is no sunset on this tax. Once these two items are accomplished the money will continue to roll in. The County is building a new dispatch center that can handle fire dispatching. At recent a Monarch board meeting there have been presentations, weak in the facts, claiming such a system would be bad. Of course employees at the CCE911 dispatch center are all members of AFFA Local 2662 union. Chief Vineyard fails to address why Monarch residents at paying $50 a call more than any other fire service agency this year at CCE911. It costs exactly the same for the dispatchers to send a firetruck and ambulance to a wreck on the interstate in Chesterfield or Maryland Heights, but the districts are charged at a different rate. That is unfair to the residents in Chesterfield. These numbers are clear.
John Q Public February 08, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Just a few points......... Looks like the buy in for Monarch is the .05 tax levy based on Assessed Evaluation. That total collected tax is paid to the agency, Central County 911. That cost per call is the number of dispatched calls divided into the total tax collected and paid. Sounds like that will vary based on current evaluation and numbers of calls. Sounds fair to me. If the tax rate is uniform for all members, its fair. As far as the County Sales Tax for sirens and what not,. Mr. Vineyard makes a good point. It was sold to the TAXPAYERS as upgrades to communications equipment/cellular tracking and warning sirens. It was a new tax that required 2/3 vote? There was no inclusion relative to fire dispatching. Is the County really offering "Free" dispatching to the Fire Districts ? The taxpayers are getting what they voted for. Doesn't sound like double taxation to me at all. Voters could have said no to the new sales tax if it was not what they wanted. Taxpayers had time to study the issues and make an informed decision. Sales taxes are regressive, ongoing and questionable, relative to this issue. If you have a beef with the county sales tax, you should have been exposing that information before it was voted on.. Its a little late now NOTE: as I recall, it's Local 2665, not 2662 and IAFF, not AFFA. After all the articles you have written featuring Monarch, I would think you have that much down by now.
Stephan D'Fella February 12, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Mrs Hoffman, I am glad for you that you have a media platform to launch your political agenda. A man with your ability and knowledge is being wasted at the Patch. Have you considered applying at the Thrifty Nickle?

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