Cell phone fee opponents are challenging the ballot title for a referendum putting the funding question to voters.

Donald Erich, a chief petitioner and committee member of Citizens Against New Telecom Taxes, filed the suit last week in Marion County Circuit Court last week. He’s represented by Nathan Rietmann, a Salem attorney who is the committee’s treasurer.

Because it’s a referendum at the city level, the circuit court will have the final say.

Reitmann’s Dec. 23 filing calls the ballot title, caption and summary written by City Attorney Shannon Johnson “insufficient” and “unfair.”

Reitmann argues the title and caption don’t “reasonably identify the subject” of the referendum. He also argues they don’t “reasonably identify that the measure will have the actual major effect of imposing new licensing requirements of telecommunications providers.” Reitmann stated in his filing that registration and the license telecom providers will be required to obtain are not “synonymous” in common speech.

He also raises issue with Johnson’s description of a telecom fee, saying it should be described as a tax because it raises general fund revenue “to be used on programs that are for the benefit of the Keizer residents generally, “as opposed to “administering a regulatory program … or to respond to regulatory needs occasioned by the telecommunications providers on whom the imposition would be imposed.”

City Manager Chris Eppley has stated in the past that while about 80 percent of the general fund is spent on police, funds would not be placed specifically in a police-related fund or in the fund set aside for paying 911 service costs.

Rietmann also noted Eppley referred to the proposed licensing fee as a “tax” in a November 15 memorandum to the Keizer City Council.

Reitmann argues the caption, title or summary don’t mention telecom providers “would be permitted, and in certain cases required, to pass some or all of the tax through to their customers.” He also states the full effect is not mentioned, namely that services such as voice-over Internet protocol (VOIP) would be subject to the fee.