E-911 approves increase of phone surcharge

Published 11:30 pm Friday, November 5, 2010

Landline phone users will begin paying an extra 90 cents service charge the first of the new year for emergency 911 services in Butler County.

The Butler County E-911 Board of Directors have approved an increase of monthly surcharges from $2 to $2.90. The increase is effective January 2011.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon, who is chairperson of the E-911 board, said the board had “no choice” in making the decision. He said with more of the county’s residents switching from using home telephones to cellular phones, Butler County E-911’s annual operating budget continues to fall.

Email newsletter signup

Since 2007, revenue generated from landline telephone service at E-911 has fallen from $221,313 to $176,789. While cellular phone customers also pay a surcharge, the maximum allowed by the state is 70 cents.

E-911’s revenue from cell phones has increased from $67,593 to $97,317 over a four-year period, but McLendon said annual expenditures – including the $54,000 purchase of equipment that allows E-911 to pinpoint an cellular caller’s location in an emergency situation – offsets any financial gains.

“During this economy this is not what we wanted to do,” said McLendon. “But we feel like this is something we needed to do to get our budget to where it needs to be. Because if we didn’t do this we would have to get out of the E-911 business. And we believe it is extremely beneficial to Butler County, and too valuable to lose.”

With the annual decrease in the number of landline phone owners and increased expenditures, E-911 has lost an estimated $260,000 over the four-year period, according to financial numbers presented by E-911 to the county commission Thursday night. The county contributes $42,500 annually to E-911 while Greenville contributes $100,000.

McLendon first raised awareness of E-911’s financial situation in July when he addressed the commission. Since then, he said he has been working with elected officials to try and get a surcharge increase for cellular phones pushed through the Legislature in 2011.

“If the surcharge was increased for cellular users, we would definitely consider reducing it for landlines,” said McLendon, adding he agreed it was unfair for landline users to bear the brunt of the increase.