911 Funding Concerns

By Jim Madalinsky

Published 01/15 2014 05:24PM

Updated 01/15 2014 05:35PM

ALTOONA - It's a system that's been in place for years in Pennsylvania. People with a landline phone pay a monthly service fee of $1.25. That same service fee is $1.00 for cell phones, tablets and other internet phone services. The money from the fees goes to 911 centers and as more and more people are getting rid of their landlines, their funding has continued to drop.
“There's a lot of unknowns out there as to how 9-1-1 is going to be funded going forward,” Blair County 911 Director Mark Taylor says.
Blair County 9-1-1 Director Mark Taylor says funding has been on the decline for years.
Legislation requiring monthly service fees from landlines and cell phone users is set to expire in June, leaving 911 centers statewide concerned about where their money will come from.
“At what point does the system go bankrupt and they can no longer help us and that would put the burden on the counties and municipalities to fund 911 and that's naturally a big concern,” Taylor says.
Currently the county funds about 30% of the 911Center’s budget.
Taylor says a new flat fee for any equipment used to reach 911 would help.
“To me anything you pick up and call 9-1-1 on should be a set fee and how they pick what the fee should be, I've heard $1.75, $2.00, there's all kind of numbers being looked at out there,” Taylor says.
State Representative John McGinnis says legislators are working on a solution and a $1.75 flat fee for all devices appears to be the consensus.
"It's just appropriate that whatever device people are using pay an equal fee for an equal service," Rep. John McGinnis (R, 79th District) says.
In the meantime the Blair County 911 center is currently working on other ways to save money, like partnerships with other counties.
“We're in a project already looking at how we would share resources. CADD systems, recorders, radios things like that,” Taylor says.
McGinnis says state leaders are focused on fixing the problem.
"I'm very optimistic things will be taken care of. The County Commissioners may not be very happy and the phone companies may not be happy,” McGinnis says. "I think we'll have a good resolution."
Taylor says obviously any funding is important, especially as technology continues to advance. 911 centers statewide hope to soon be able to use things like text messages and social media to help report emergencies.

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