Budgets discussed at E911 and Communications meeting
The E911 Board and the Communications Commission each held a meeting in the former library in Washington Thursday night. The two groups were going to have a joint meeting to discuss plans for building a new dispatch center, but the engineer who would have presented the plans, Leonard Koehnen of St. Paul, was not able to attend because of the weather.
Thursday’s meeting was the first time the E911 Board had a chance to view the 2010-2011 budget. One of the main issues discussed at the meeting was the declining revenue from landline surcharges.
Emergency Services receives $1.50 for every 911 landline in the county. Communications Supervisor Cara Sorrells reported to the board that the number of landlines has gone down nearly every year for the past decade. The number of landlines in the county has declined 22 percent since 2000, from 11,193 at the start of the decade to 8,744 in 2009. Sorrells said that Washington County’s $1.50 landline surcharge is one of the highest in the state. Neighboring Johnson County has a landline surcharge of 45 cents.
The decline in landlines means fewer surcharges coming in to Emergency Services. Revenue from landlines declined over $44,000 since 2000, when it was $201,474.
Sorrells said many people are substituting cellular telephones for their traditional landlines. While Emergency Services still receives surcharges from cell phone users, it is not enough to make up for the loss in landlines.
Cell phone users pay a 65-cent surcharge on their monthly cell phone bill in the state of Iowa. Sorrells said that money first goes to the state government, which takes a portion of the money to cover administrative costs. In the end, the state gives 25 percent of the revenue from wireless surcharges to local emergency services.
Sorrells also talked about how there has been a problem in the past of pinpointing the origin of cell phone calls. If a person dials 911 on their landline, the address is automatically provided to the dispatcher. Until recently, cell phone calls could only be pinpointed to the nearest cell phone tower. Sorrells said that the majority of wireless providers nowadays are able to give the dispatcher the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates on a map when a call is made, which makes it much easier for first responders to locate the caller.
The Communications Commission also looked at its 2010-2011 budget for the first time Thursday. The commission’s projected budget for 2010-2011 is $618,107, which is approximately 1 percent higher than the 2009-2010 budget which is $613,399.
Salary costs represent by far the largest share of the 2010-2011 budget, comprising 64 percent of the total. The next largest expenditure is insurance, which is projected to make up 12 percent of the total.
For the full article, see our Jan. 22 print edition.