County: 911 fees should cover payroll at the communications center, not local taxpayers

The Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee voted on May 27 to transfer the obligation for covering payroll costs at the Coffee County Communications Center from the county to the 911 board, effective Jan. 1, 2021. This vote means payroll and employee benefits – an annual expense of about $750,000 – will be covered by 911 fees charged to every citizen and business for their land lines and cell phones instead of local taxpayers.

The Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee voted on May 27 to transfer the obligation for covering payroll costs at the Coffee County Communications Center from the county to the 911 board, effective Jan. 1, 2021. This vote means payroll and employee benefits – an annual expense of about $750,000 – will be covered by 911 fees charged to every citizen and business for their land lines and cell phones instead of local taxpayers.

Budget and finance committee member Bobby Bryan made the motion, which was approved unanimously. The Coffee County Commission will have to approve that change before it takes effect. That shift will bring a significant relief to local taxpayers, according to Bryan.  

Currently, revenues from the 911 fees go directly to the 911 board’s coffers. The 911 board has a fund balance of more than $3 million, a sufficient amount to bear payroll expenses, said Bryan.

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Additionally, funds from 911 fee will soon grow. Recent legislation increased this charge from $1.17 to $1.50 per month, a 28% increase, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

This move of the county budget and finance committee coincides with the effort of State Representative Rush Bricken (R-District 47, Coffee and Warren Counties) to ensure all communications centers across the state operate and are funded in a consistent manner.

The new bill (HB 2520) will save taxpayers in Coffee County and many other counties in the state hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Bricken.

The legislation focuses on two primary 911 areas. First, it will require all 911 district call centers to provide direct dispatch to law enforcement and emergency response units such as fire and ambulance services. Second, it would require 911 districts to directly employ their staff. The proposed legislation stipulates the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) develop these uniform guidelines for all the state’s 911 districts by June 30, 2021 and then provides five years (June 30, 2026) to comply with the guidelines, according to Bricken.

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