911 budget drops over $31,000
During a budget discussion Monday evening, the joint meeting of the E911 Services and Communications Board learned that the E911 fund had dropped $31,176 during the last year due to a state mandate that the E911 surcharge couldn’t be renewed last year.
Communications Supervisor Cara Sorrells said that the drop in the fund, which is primarily responsible for paying for 911 phone lines and the purchase of new equipment is because of a state law that limits 911 surcharge to $1. Before the law went into effect at the beginning of the year, the county had charged $1.50 per month to landline users.
“It is concerning,” Sorrells said. “We are losing quite a bit of funding. It has caused us to put a moratorium on our spending. Right now we are paying phone bills and nothing else.”
The law also established an E911 task force to study issues such as the surcharge. Sorrells said that she had approached the task force about rescinding the moratorium, but she does not foresee the surcharge being reinstated.
In a previous interview, Sorrells said that it would take five to 10 years to rebuild the E911 budget’s reserves to a strong level. She is also concerned that without the money, the county wouldn’t be able to purchase equipment to comply with federal mandates.
During the past year the surcharge was used to make several purchases, including $140,000 on a new 911 system and $30,000 on a 911 database.
Sorrells said that the law actually generates more revenue for most counties because it doubles the revenue from cell phone surcharges. Washington received about 16 cents from cell phone users that increased to 32 cents under the law. While the county was expected to gain about $20,000 from the increase, about $50,000 was expected to be lost from the landline surcharge cut.