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Less 911 funding

Published June 21. 2013 05:03PM

Carbon County will likely receive about $250,000 less in the amount of funding it asked for to operate the communications center and system.

The county was notified by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency that Carbon would be receiving $950,596.23 in E911 funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The county had asked for about $1.2 million.

According to PEMA, this year's total E911 funding requests came to $259 million. But the state received only $116 million in revenue.

E911 (enhanced 911) systems automatically provide a 911 caller's callback number and, in most cases, location information to emergency service personnel. E-911 funding is generated by a $1 surcharge on the sale of each prepaid device in the state.

The reduced funding won't have a major impact on the communications center, commissioners said. The county hasn't had to use tax dollars to pay for the operations and a few special projects, such as equipment purchases, because its three-source funding stream has been sufficient.

The county budgeted $2,066,892 for the communications center this year.

The funding stream is a confluence of E-911; Act 78, which is generated by a $1.50 charge on all landline phones; and assessments to municipalities, which generate about $130,000 per year.

The county anticipates about $388,500 in Act 78 funding, although the exact amount won't be known until later in the year.

The state operates on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, while the county uses the calendar year for its budget, so some of the funding may carry over into next year's spending plan.

The county started the year with a communications center fund balance of $601,388, and anticipated $1.7 million in revenue, mostly from the funding stream. Using about half of the fund balance to meet the budget, the county expected to end the year with a balance of about $291,000.

County financial consultant Jeff Weiss earlier this year sent a memo to the commissioners, noting that while the county is not dipping into its general fund to help offset communications center operations, it will likely have to start, perhaps as soon as this year, if the state makes any significant changes. Weiss noted that the state is considering changing the way 911 services are funded.

Meanwhile, the county is coping over the years with less state funding as its own expenses continue to rise.

Among the special projects the commissioners are considering is converting the communications center to a Windows-based software system that would give dispatchers faster access to information. Initially, the project was estimated to cost about $400,000, but the county believes that cost could be much lower. The new system would replace the antiquated system now being used.

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