The Commission did not vote on the issue at Monday’s meeting. The issue had been on the agenda but was pulled before the agenda was approved.
Monday was the last meeting where amendments could be made to the 2011-12 budget. The 2012-13 budget is set to be adopted July 2.
Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber emphasized the importance of finding a long-term solution to funding the department.
“This is something [where] we can’t have them come back next year asking for another $300,000 and another $300,00 again the next year,” Yarber said. “Something needs to be done on the front end.”
Yarber said he was unsure what a long-term solution would be. However, he said if the state would give the local governments the entire cellphone 911 tax, then it would help.
Joe Wilson, 911 director, told the Commission not to expect a solution to come from the state level. Wilson said the state would never give the districts enough funding to adequately pay dispatchers.
“This is not a state problem. This is a local problem. The state has never given you money to fund 911 dispatchers, and the state never will give you money to fund 911 dispatchers,” Wilson said.
Funding from the state for the 911 districts comes in the form of grants for capital project needs. These grants are funded through the 911 fee on cellphones.
In 2002, the Bradley County Commission committed to funding the 911 Center to make up for shortfalls, according to Wilson.
He said even if 911 rates were increased under the current system it would still not provide funding for dispatchers.
“I really don’t look forward to going a third year into the red, and the budget next year is going to take us a fourth year into the red,” Wilson said.
Danny Lawson, director of the Emergency Medical Service, also spoke in favor of the county funding 911.
“The last three months our call volume is greater than any previous month. In fact, the last three months have been greater than the first year of service,” Lawson said. “The 911 Board will be faced with a decision. The only way to make up that much money is to cut positions.”
Lawson said the situation puts pressure on the 911 center and emergency services.
Lawson said if dispatching of emergencies went back to the old system of being dispatched by each department, the cost would be greater than it is to operate the 911 center.
Distressed districts can be taken over by the state, making added approval needed for financial elements of the 911 districts.
Commissioner J. Adam Lowe presented information from a Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations report, which said the state is in favor of consolidating the local districts into larger regional call centers.
Money to fund the deficit in 911 could not be taken from the county’s general fund for this year or next year because it would put the county below the state-required percentage. Commissioners also stated in a work session last week that they would not take money from proposed raises in the 2012-13 fiscal year to fund the department.
-Also during Monday’s meeting, Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth presented his budget appeal. His was the only department to appeal the budget. In his appeal the sheriff highlighted needs to retain professional employees, increase the number of officers working in the jail and purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Ruth said he felt the only way to keep good officers would be through a merit-based pay plan. He said there were open positions because the Sheriff’s Office could not find qualified applicants.
The Commission did not approve any changes to the BCSO budget based on the appeal.