Alarm owners raise eyebrows over tax renewal, ordinance

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

SHREVEPORT, La.--Voters overwhelmingly passed a sales tax increase here in early April despite complaints from a local alarm company and its customers about an increase in the city's alarm ordinance fines that took place late last year.
Scot Colby, vice president of Bayou Security Systems and president of the National Burglar & Fire Alarm System, mailed letters to customers earlier this year to inform them about revisions the city planned to make to its alarm ordinance. He said the city planned to charge more for false alarms, such as $100 for the fourth false alarm, and then use that money to support a pay increase for the police department.
"I got quite a few letters, about 50 of them, sent to the city council and phone calls were made to them, too," said Colby about his efforts to raise awareness among customers. Colby claimed the public, including the alarm industry, was not included in the process of creating the ordinance.
Though Colby managed to raise awareness among his customers about the city's new alarm ordinance, and many customers threatened not to support the increase, the city's sales tax increase went through. Of the votes cast, 6,855 voted in favor of the increase, while 903 voted against it. Part of the revenue from the one-quarter sales tax increase will be used to support a pay increase for police and fire department officials.
After Colby learned last year the city was working to pass an alarm ordinance, he was able to get its approval postponed until a police representative met with the local alarm association. The ordinance went into place last September, but can be revised in the future at the discretion of the police department.
Overall, he said he was pleased his customers voiced their concerns with the Shreveport City Council. And, he said he continues to work with the city to try to reduce the higher fines it imposed and eliminate part of the ordinance that requires the key holder respond to every alarm, or face an additional $100 fine.
"If they got rid of the key holder issue, the fines would probably be reasonable," said Colby. "The $100 fine, on top of the other fines that they receive, would be steep."