Officials met Friday to discuss options including bringing legislators into the planning how to get laws changed which would direct more dollars to the local 911 Center which could become “distressed” due to the shortfall.
Wilson said land-line phones brought revenue of $1.50 monthly each and 97 percent of that came to support operations. The shortfall was created by the increased usage of cell phones, which provided less revenue to the local 911 centers.
“With the change throughout the years to more cell phone users, which we only get $1 of revenue, that has created the revenue decline which has put us in the negative for the past two years. This is the third year and we need to end in the ‘black’ to avoid a state oversight. We must end the year in the black according to state law,” Wilson explained.
“We have not had an increase in our budget in the last 10 years, primarily because we didn’t ask for it. We had a healthy fund balance and under spent in our budget until two years ago. Our fund balance increased every year and now we are going in the fund balance to operate,” he said during the first meeting to see what could be done.
Of the 100 districts, Wilson said one-third of the districts are in the red at some level, whether they are in the initial stages or more progressed, where state oversight is triggered.
“This is what we need to avoid. We want our financial decisions to be made by local board members,” he said.
A possible solution at this point is the cities of Cleveland and Charleston partner with Bradley County government to increase funding in the current fiscal year to “lift us out of the red,” said Wilson.
During the meeting, one option discussed was passing costs to public safety and service users.
The assessment for each agency such as Cleveland Police, Bradley County Sheriff, etc.,— plus an additional fee for National Crime Information Center access would be determined according to amount of use for some agencies not dispatched by 911 but who utilize the NCIC service.
“This would be a base fee for limited access. If additional service is needed, then their usage would increase,” he said.
“Right now, no agency is charged, but that could change in the future,” Wilson said.
Twenty agencies now use NCIC for a variety of functions.
According to Wilson, orders of protection, criminal warrants, property theft items including vehicles, and other information is continually stored in the system.
“The system is accessed 24/7 by dispatchers for these user agencies,” Wilson said.
The city of Cleveland shares 49.5 percent of funding along with Bradley County and the city of Charleston supports with one percent.
“At this point, we will invite legislators to meet with us. Change in the law the way 911 revenue is calculated and comes to the local level, will help not only Bradley County 911, but all 100 districts in Tennessee,” Wilson said.
Another meeting is set for Friday.
Wilson is also inviting to participate, representatives from the Emergency Communications Board from Nashville.