Wednesday, May 22, 2013
911 Phone Surcharge Inadequately Funds Municipal Emergency Services
Regardless of which network you use, you’re also charged a monthly fee for 911 emergency services. In Anchorage it’s set at $1.50 per month, but municipal officials say it's not enough money to fund essential services.
When you buy a phone, you pay for more than just minutes. Regardless of which network you use, you’re also charged a monthly fee for 911 emergency services.
It’s called the Enhanced 911 surcharge, and for phone owners in the Municipality of Anchorage it’s set at $1.50 per month.
Revenue from the surcharge generates millions of dollars every year in Anchorage, but local officials said it’s not enough.
In an Anchorage Assembly Audit Committee meeting Thursday, municipal CFO Lucinda Mahoney said the system has been operating on a deficit since 2004.
"We are actually in a negative fund balance situation here of $7.5 million,” Mahoney said.
The E-911 rate is set in state statute and based on a specific definition of emergency services, but Mahoney said the definition doesn’t always match the reality.
Police and fire officials said much of their emergency response work is done outside the statute’s definition of 911 services and isn’t funded by E-911 surcharge revenues.
"We have 20 dispatchers,” said fire chief Mark Hall. “Their sole job is to come into work and sit at the station and they dispatch calls and take calls."
He said the Anchorage Fire Department call center handles roughly 6,500 calls per month and the majority of them are 911 related.
Faced with a multimillion-dollar shortfall and citizens dependent on reliable emergency services, municipal officials said there’s only one solution.
"We use tax dollars,” Mahoney said.