A regional 911 board is considering all options for funding the emergency call service with revenue from landline telephone fees steadily decreasing.
As more people switch to cell phones and end their landline telephone service, the fees for operating 911 continue to decrease, according to members of the Purchase Area Enhanced 911 Administrative Board, which met Tuesday.
The board represents Graves, Ballard, Fulton, Hickman and Lyon counties, many of which have some or all of their 911 calls dispatched through Kentucky State Police Post 1 in Hickory.
Currently, those people who have landline phones pay the majority of the 911 fees. Those with pre-paid phones pay $1 at the time they buy their phone toward the 911 fund but nothing every time they reload their phone with pre-paid minutes, said Kentucky State Police Lt. Dean Patterson, who chairs the board. Those with contract wireless cell phone service pay 70 cents a month. Most of the money paid goes to the state, but a portion goes to each county for its 911 expenses.
"We want to look in every direction and try to find the easiest way (to fund 911) and find a way that's fair," said Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, who sits on the board. "Right now it's not fair. Those with landlines are the only ones who are paying."
According to the board's April minutes, the board invited several property valuation administrators and county judge-executives to its April 9 meeting to discuss doing away with the landline fee and putting a $12 yearly tax on residents' property tax bills instead.
That proposal was not without challenges, Patterson said. The county officials reported they all use separate programs to calculate and print the bills, there would not be room on the printed property tax bill in some cases, and it would be difficult to get the unanimous approval of all five county fiscal courts and various municipalities within those counties, he said.
"It's not dead," Patterson said of the proposal. "It's just more complex."
At Tuesday's meeting, the board discussed the possibility of adding a fee to electric bills to replace the landline fee. Patterson asked each county's representative to come back to him with a list of all the electric utilities operating within their communities.
"I'm just trying to look at other angles here for our funding," Patterson said.
The board meets again June 11.