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Friday, February 10, 2012

State Funding System For 911 Falling Woefully Short

State Funding System For 911 Falling Woefully Short

911The Potter County Commissioners are working to draw attention to a growing crisis in the state’s funding formula for 911 services. Roots of the issue date back more than a decade, to a time when the state authorized counties to impose a $1.50 monthly fee on telephone land lines.


The resultant revenue was supposed to cover the costs of emergency communications systems. Potter County, like its counterparts, built a series of towers and relay systems to extend 911 coverage. The county also partnered with neighboring Tioga County to share expenses for a centralized, two-county dispatch center.

Revenue from land lines has been steadily sinking at the same time costs for 911 services have risen. As a result, Potter and many other rural counties face a shortfall.


All three commissioners were joined by Department of Emergency Services Director John Hetrick for a meeting with two representatives of the Pa. Emergency Management Agency. What followed was a communication to boards of commissioners across the state, urging support for a change in state policy to more fully fund 911.


As a follow-up, Potter County Commissioner Susan Kefover and Elk County Commissioner June Sorg are headed to Harrisburg next week to emphasize rural counties’ plight in meetings with four members of the Senate Emergency Preparedness Committee.

18 comments :

Anonymous said...

Lay offs at EMA would help! This made up agency is a huge taxpayer burden!

Anonymous said...

we projected to waste more money than we had, please help us waste more

Anonymous said...

EMA a made up agency?? Actually it is an agency mandated by the Commonwealth for each county. A large portion of the wages and benefits for the County EMA Director is reimbursed through funds from PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), and even though the Commonwealth 911 Bureau is under PEMA, the funding is completely separate. The funding received by local 911 centers comes from the $1.50 surcharge on land line telephones and the $1.00 surcharge on cell phones and VoIP phones. The land line surcharge and VoIP surcharge go directly to the counties to use for eligible expenses. The cell phone surcharge is given to the Commonwealth, and each county makes application for these funds every year through essentially a competitive grant process. There is a list of certain items that are eligible to be funded with this money and a list of things that this money can not be used for. Most of the 69 911 centers in the state are still receiving the same land line surcharge amount that they were in the late 80's and early 90's. Of course the cost of doing business and the cost of the equipment required to handle emergency calls has increased significantly over this time period. Currently, most all of the 69 communications centers will need to purchase new radios at a cost of $8000 to $10000 a piece due to the FCC mandating that the bandwidth that they transmit on (currently 25Khz and being narrowed down to 12.5Khz) be completed by January 1, 2013. Imagine this; you work for 15-20 years at the same pay rate while the cost of living continues to rise. Would you be as financially sound now as you were 15-20 years ago?

Anonymous said...

Why is the cell phone surcharge less than the land line surcharge?
Why does the cell phone surcharge go to the state rather than the county? It would seem that getting money from the state from this cell phone surcharge is more or less a lottery. I don't understand. Can someone explain it to me??????

Anonymous said...

The legislature needs to fix this.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the ema pay rates and cost of their benefits to the taxpayers. I like the old (the state makes us do it) line of crap!

Anonymous said...

The state makes us do it line of crap?
Kind of like the state makes us have a driver's license, or pay a tax on gasoline, or put on our seat belts or...
Are you suggesting that we disobey the law?
Anytime somebody gets on here and suggests that, I think to myself that the person is unAmerican and is spitting in the eyes of my father and grandfather and brothers and sons who have all fought for this country -- a nation of laws.
Also there are consequences for disobeying the law, like losing our state aid. If the county didn't have state aid I'll bet our county taxes would triple, at least.

Anonymous said...

hopefully the benefits don't include their food bills

Anonymous said...

Could use the gas tax money to help fund this. Oh that's right, we don't take big gas.

Anonymous said...

Government at it's best spending more than it receives!

Anonymous said...

"hopefully the benefits don't include their food bills"

What do food bills have to do with 911 service?

Anonymous said...

thank you for the information 8:28...seems like the revenue source was initially thru land lines...EMA needs to eliminate this as their major revenue source..many people are now cell users only.. (just business sense)but did you know there is sur-tax on traffic tickets that goes to 911. As a matter of "fat" (sorry I meant fact} there are numerous add on's to traffic violations that support a number of government agencies that increase the fine from $30-150, that we the taxpayers never realized were passed by our legislation. If you have ever received a traffic ticket just check it out...

Anonymous said...

6:32PM. There are, in fact, no surcharges on a traffic citation that 911 sees. There are surcharges that do benefit state agencies, and one that does provide some funding for the state EMA, however it stays on the EMA side of the house NOT the 911 side of the house. Although the 911 Bureau is under the State EMA office, they are very separate and very differently funded groups. As far as eliminating the land line phones as a major source of funding, only 30% of all households nationwide are strictly cellular households. Although the VoIP world is different in context from the land line world, the VoIP funds are categorized as what PEMA refers to as Wireline funds (land line). As far as "check it out", I don't need to. I am thoroughly familiar with the state's 911 funding system (20+ years of dealing with it give you just a tad bit of knowledge of its finer points).

Anonymous said...

Thank you Am I mistaken that I received a traffic vioation last year from a township officer in PA that had a line item for 911? (I could be mistaken .... it could have been EMA...(but somehow 911 sticks in my mind) Pls as far as furture revenue projections 30% land line is changing rapidly and with due respect is the government then surcharging cell phones for EMA funding... and we just haven't checked our bills....just asking .....Please educae me so I can help

Anonymous said...

Potter county is shrinking in population,jobs,school students,business,tourism,hunters,fishermen,almost everything! I think things like the ema,fire dept's,ect.should look at combining their resources! I know people don't want to hear it but lay offs are a part of it.Time to tighten the belt!

Anonymous said...

9:18, what happened to "big gas will fix everything"? I thought we were looking at increased population, jobs, kids, income, business expansions, etc?

Anonymous said...

8:44;
Yes, there is a $1.00 surcharge on each cell phone. This includes prepaid phones. The surcharge for them is collected at the point-of-sale, and then remitted on a monthly basis to the state. As far as there being a surcharge for EMA funding on these devices, there is not. It is a surcharge for 9-1-1 funding. There is a huge difference in the funding for these two agencies. Several counties have a department of emergency services, which includes both EMA and 911 or where the EMA director manages both EMA and 911. However, they are funded by entirely separate sources. The 30% was the national average at the mid-point of 2011. I am sure that it will be closer to, if not over, 40% by the mid-point of this year. With the loss of all those land lines at $1.50 per line being replaced by cell phones at $1.00 a line, it does not take an accountant to see that not only is the cost of business increasing but that revenue will decrease substantially. I suggest that if you want a reliable 9-1-1 system if you ever need it that you contact your state representative and state senator and urge them to support legislation to increase funding to 9-1-1. On a side note, how many of you realize that the state representative for a portion of this web sites readers was a 9-1-1 Dispatcher before becoming a State Representative?

Mike Hunt said...

I say add the needed monies to the fines of the folks that are D.U.I.