Committee to look at E-911 funding shortfall

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Decreasing revenues are causing problems for Crenshaw County E-911, but local officials are looking at a number of ways to fix the issue.

“The basic situation is that there’s not enough money coming in to support it right now,” E-911 board member Stephen Wilson told the County Commission last week.

The biggest reason for that decline comes from a change in residents’ phone lines.

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Currently, residents pay a monthly fee on their landline phone bills that funds E-911, however, more and more people are moving away from a landline telephone and use only a cell phone.

While local landline fees stay in the county, cell phone revenues are pooled statewide and distributed to counties by population.

Landline revenue has dropped considerably over the last three years.

In 2008, the combined revenue from CenturyTel, Moncre and Troy Cable totaled $178,654.53.

That number dropped slightly to $170,027.81 in 2009 but took a nosedive to $139,656.89 in 2010.
Overall, E-911 has lost $38,997.64 in funding the last three years.

However, landline phones aren’t the only source of revenue for E-911.

Local towns and the county commission also help fund the service.

In the 2010 fiscal year, Brantley contributed $10,800, the Crenshaw County Commission added $50,000, Dozier funded $1,500, Luverne contributed $18,000, Petrey added $900 and Rutledge funded $3,300.

For the 2011 fiscal year, Luverne’s contributed remained steady, and Petrey, Rutledge and Dozier all added an extra $300.

However, Brantley only committed to six months of the service, which cut funding to $5,400, and the county commission cut funding from $50,000 to $25,000.

Overall, E-911’s budget has dropped by just over $38,000.

“I think the commission would agree: we can’t keep short-term fixing it,” Commissioner Charlie Sankey said last week. “This landline situation isn’t going to stop.”

The commission and representatives of the E-911 board brainstormed a number of alternatives, including moving the fee to water or power bills.

Another possibility is adding a tax, but that would require sending it to the legislature in Montgomery, and it would then be voted on by the people of the county.

“That wouldn’t get on the ballot until the midterm election, and that’s two years away,“ Sankey said.

In the meantime, a committee is being formed to examine the options that lay before the county.

The proposed committee will feature a representative from Luverne, Brantley, Dozier, Petrey, Rutledge and two representatives from both the county commission and E-911 board.

While E-911 board chairman David Sanders said he didn’t think E-911 would completely be dissolved, he said the funding problem could cause hardships for first responders and residents.

“If things don’t change, it could be a wake-up call for county residents,” he said.