Alcona County Central Dispatch's 911 phone service could face a 75 percent budget cut if voters turn down its proposal to renew a monthly surcharge on their phone bills on Nov. 6.
One of only two local proposals on Alcona County's November ballot, the 911 operating surcharge renewal would allow the department to continue operating an emergency telephone service for county residents at the current rate after the current surcharge expires on June 1, 2014. The surcharge has been in place since 2005, renewed once in 2007 at a slightly higher rate, and this year's proposal for renewal would help fund equipment and operating costs from July 1, 2014, through December 2018 by continuing to assess a fee of not more than $4 on monthly billings of landline, wireless and VOIP (voice-over Internet protocol) suppliers. 911 Director Jeff Brackett said even though the proposal gives his department the option to charge up to $4, he has no intention of charging more than the current rate of $3 per month per phone.
"The main thing is that it's no increase, it's not a tax, it's just a surcharge renewal," he said. "The surcharge is actually charged by the phone company, and then they send us a check once they collect the surcharge."
Brackett said it would be "devastating" for local 911 service if voters decided not to renew the surcharge.
"My budget is approximately $460,000, and then we get $120,000 of that from the state, so three-quarters of my budget would be gone," he said. "It would definitely impact services, we would certainly have to lay people off, and we would probably try to go to the county to recover the money, but I don't know."
The monthly fee applies to all the county's landlines, but only to cell phones of users who registered an in-county address with their service provider; for instance, if a cell phone user registers an address in Alpena but uses the phone in Alcona County, the surcharge would go to Alpena.
"Where our issue is, we have a roughly 10,000 regular population, and in the summertime we blossom to 30,000 sometimes, but all those people who may be using the 911 services, their cell phones are registered in Wyandotte or Warren or Detroit, so we don't get anything for that," Brackett said. "But that's where the system's a little bit flawed, but it's where the phone is registered that the surcharge goes to."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.