No Franchise Fee On Telecommunications

The decision to adopt a telecommunication franchise fee came down to a single tie-breaking vote by Mayor Roger Jones at Monday night’s city council meeting.
In front of a standing room only crowd of forty-plus, Jones cast the deciding vote to reject adopting an ordinance that would levy a five percent fee on basic local telecommunications and wireless services within the city limits.
Mayor Jones, previously an advocate of adding franchise fees, did an about face joining Councilmen Ted Griess and Larry Evans in opposition of the fee.  Councilman Lathan Thompson and Mike Kleen voted in favor.
The telecommunication fee was introduced by Thompson.
“Telecommunications, I think, provides the most amount of money of all the franchise fees,” Thompson told the council.  “ I pay a $40-per-month phone bill, and I didn’t think 5 percent was going to hurt my phone bill that much. Like I said, I wouldn’t want it on my water, my garbage, my electric or nothing like that…We’ve got to get the money somewhere. We have to pay the bills. I wouldn’t go any further than just this one, though.”
According to City Administrator Brent Lewis, the telecommunications franchise fees would generate $90,000 annually.  At 5 percent, the fees would add $4 to an $80 monthly phone bill.
The city’s annual budget was constructed in September around the theory that franchise fees on water, sewer, electricity, garbage and telecommunications would be approved by the council.  The revenue from the fees was included in the budget, however, the fees were never approved, leaving the city in a precarious financial predicament.
At the previous Jan.18 meeting, the council approved cashing a $85,000 certificate of deposit to cover a deficit in the city tax revenue account.  The deficit was brought to the council’s attention by former City Clerk Jami Maendele, who, using a bucket analogy to describe the city’s accounting practices, stated, “The big bucket is empty”.  She told the council she anticipated the same situation happening again in the next month.  Maendele was let go from her position as city clerk the following Friday.

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