New County Law Taxes Cell Phones
Published: October 20th, 2008
By: Melissa deCordova

NORWICH – Despite a handful of lawmakers who dug in their heels again, a new local law imposing a 30 cent monthly surcharge on individual cell phone usage passed the Chenango County Board of Supervisors by a vote of 17 to 5.

The law would impose the tax on every devise used except by Lifeline customers and county employees who use cell phones in the line of work.

The measure was suggested at the committee level nearly three years ago, debated and passed at the board level in February, and moved onto the state’s legislature. The law required state-level action in order for the county to impose the tax in lieu of home rule, the county’s system of municipal self-government.

The revenues are intended to underwrite the county’s nearly completed $3 million emergency communications tower project. The system was expected to be operational in April, but now has a December finish date.

Before the board vote, Town of Norwich Supervisor David C. Law suggested that municipal highway departments, schools and fire departments be exempt from the tax as well. He said fire and police often use cell phones when they don’t want to go live over scanner airways.

“We’re all part of the county. We should be exempt, too,” he said.

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