Solving 911 Funding Problems: Legislature Considers Options

By Jeff Neumeyer

January 13, 2012 Updated Jan 13, 2012 at 5:56 PM EST

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Fort Wayne and Allen County Government officials are counting on action by the Indiana State Legislature to provide answers for local 911 funding problems.

The House Ways and Means Committee received testimony Friday on three bills that would either allow phone user fees to be hiked, providing a new stream of money to local units of government, or give those entities the authority to hike local taxes.

The Allen County Commissioners on Friday unanimously approved the transfer of about $1.1 million into the 911 budget of a joint city-county committee that runs the local 911 operations center.

Right now, money collected from fees on land lines, wireless phone accounts and pre-paid phones only generates about one-third the amount needed to pay for the city-county 911 communications center.

The Allen County Commissioners favor House Bill 1263, which would allow individual counties to decide whether to increase phone user fees to $2.00 a month to balance the 911 books.

Nelson Peters/(R) Allen County Commissioner: " There really needs to be local control over these 911 dollars. We believe that we know what our needs are a whole lot better than what the state does, with respect to 911."

The other two bills addressing this issue would allow locales to initiate a new local option income tax, to raise money for 911 purposes.

Peters says that's not a good way to go, because the public clearly doesn't like tax increases.

The phone companies aren’t keen on the idea of the user fee hike, in part, because they believe customers unhappy about the fee increases tend to blame the phone providers.

State Representative Win Moses from Fort Wayne, who serves on Ways and Means, says the author of House Bill 1263 has already indicated a willingness to lower the user fee hike limit to $1.25 a month, to appease opponents.

More testimony is supposed to be received on Tuesday, before possible action is taken.




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