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Cell phone tax to boost S'side police force

Every time Sunnyside residents use their cell phones they may help ring up an arrest.

On Monday the city council approved a 6 percent tax on cellular phone services, with all proceeds designated for city law enforcement.

The tax means $6 will be added to a $100 monthly cellular phone bill.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said the state legislature authorized communities in 2002 to begin taxing for cell phone services, just as regular telephone service is taxed. "For some reason the city didn't take advantage of that at the time," he said.

Sunnyside will take advantage of the tax now, bringing in an additional $125,000 to $150,000 each year into the city coffers.

All of which means cell phone ring tones are music to the ears of Police Chief Ed Radder.

He said his department will be able to hire three new officers in January, thanks to the tax. "We're effectively picking up another shift," said Radder.

With Sunnyside police already budgeted to pick up three officers this year to get to full staffing, the additional hires next year will beef up the city's law enforcement to its largest force ever with 27 officers.

The department's staffing has been in decline since 2002, when there were 26 officers.

The cell phone tax not only means more officers, but more focused efforts, Radder noted. Drug investigations, for example, will be enhanced with additional police officers.

Stockwell said the tax will take effect in August to give cell phone companies time to make the adjustment in their billing.

Residents do have an option of contesting the tax by collecting signatures for a referendum to be included on this November's general election ballot.

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