Pottawatomie County commissioners have approved a resolution for an election Feb. 12 to ask voters for a 5 percent increase in 911 tariff fees.
The county currently collects 10 percent of the landline telephone tariff rate for purposes of providing and operating 911 services. The ballot will ask voters to approve the maximum allowed for landlines, which is 15 percent.
Commissioners approved the resolution Monday on behalf of the Pottawatomie County E-911 board, which has been discussing this issue for months at previous meetings, Commissioner Melissa Dennis said. During the course of those meetings, usually one of the three county commissioners would also attend, she said.
Tommy Arnold, director of the Pottawatomie County E-911 Center, said collected 911 fees have been declining because of decreases in landline phones.
"It's not just to provide additional funding, it's to make up funding we've lost," Arnold said of the proposal.
With the resolution, the election will be held on Feb. 12, the same day many county voters also head to the polls for annual school board elections.
If approved, the increase will apply to those who live outside city limit areas of Shawnee and only applies to landline phones. The proposed hike has nothing to do with cell line 911 fees, which already have a fee of 50 cents per number, Arnold said.
Dennis reported after Monday's meeting that it has been estimated the landline tariff increase could generate about $92,000 in revenue each year for 911 operations.
For an average landline customer in Tecumseh, for example, Arnold explained the 911-landline tariff is currently $1.75 per month. If the tariff goes to 15 percent, a residential phone bill would go up about 90 cents to $2.65 per month.
Arnold said 911 fees have been declining for most 911 centers around the state. And while nothing is certain yet, he said the state legislature will likely look in 2014 at ways to restructure 911 fees for the state and how they are collected and distributed, which could require all jurisdictions to charge the maximum landline tariff fee, which is 15 percent.
Arnold said when added up, the fees can help make up for lost revenues needed to run the county's 911 system, which is moving to certified emergency medical dispatching and working toward 911 texting and chat services.
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