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Saratoga County imposes new cell tax

Saratoga County residents may find it even more difficult to decipher their cell-phone bills.

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted to impose a 30-cent surcharge on all cell-phone users whose billing addresses are inside the county.

The money will help support the county's new 9-1-1 call center, where desk officers can pinpoint a cell phone caller's location within 30 feet using satellites and a geographic information system.

County Administrator David Wickerham said he estimates the monthly surcharge will bring in close to $100,000 annually. The tax will be collected on each cell-phone number registered in the county, even if calls made to multiple numbers are shown on the same bill.

Instituting the tax has been a difficult process, said Wickerham. It originated with Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, who won backing for a home rule bill in the state Legislature that allows the county to impose the surcharge.

The supervisors' vote was the third time the board has taken action to approve that bill. The bill passed both houses and now awaits Gov. Eliot Spitzer's signature.

Wickerham said it is not clear when the fee will go into effect, but he asked cell-phone users to make sure the surcharge is accompanied by the words Saratoga County.

If your bill doesn't say the 30 cents is going to Saratoga County, you should call the county Department of Emergency Services, said director Paul Lent. If the problem is not corrected, he said, the payment might go to another county.

Land-line users needn't worry about looking for the surcharge, they're already paying the extra fee.

In other cell-phone news, Saratoga County Sheriff James D. Bowen said the county will start getting cell phone 9-1-1 calls from other companies in the near future. The system has been getting land-line 9-1-1 calls since May.

Currently, many of those calls go to state police dispatchers who might be in Albany and unfamiliar with area roads and locations. The plan is for the county sheriff's department's 9-1-1 operators to take all the cell-phone 9-1-1 calls made in the Saratoga County.

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