Crockett, TX (News Release) – Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Board Members expressed their concerns over proposed cuts in 9-1-1 services funding following a legislative session update at their February board meeting.
DETCOG Executive Director, Walter Diggles, told the officials that DETCOG counties and cities would have to make up the regional 9-1-1 services shortfall created in the current budget being considered by the Texas House.
Diggles told the group that 9-1-1 services were originally designed to be supported by a 50-cent charge on every monthly phone bill. In urban areas the phone companies send the money directly to the administrators of the 9-1-1 systems. However, for rural areas the money is sent to the state to be distributed to the rural 9-1-1 systems.
As that fund developed a surplus, the Texas Legislature started setting part of it aside to help balance the state's budget. The fund currently is running a $117 million balance, but the current budget bill decreases the amount of those funds being distributed to the rural 9-1-1 systems for the next two years.
"We have been delaying system improvements and equipment purchases to comply with state request for cuts during the current budget," said Diggles. "However, the proposed cut for the next two years drops funding below what is required just to operate and maintain the system."
The budget being considered by the Texas House would result in each DETCOG county paying an additional $30,000 a year for the operation of the current system. Every entity with Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), where the calls are answered would pay an additional $4,000 a year for equipment, dispatcher training and software maintenance.
"We must maintain this service that is so critical to public safety," commented Diggles, "So for them to not continue funding it at even the current, reduced, level amounts to an unfunded mandate for our counties and cities."
Following the briefing several county judges and mayors expressed a desire to have their governing bodies adopt resolutions opposing the proposed 9-1-1 system funding reductions.