Jefferson County Commissioners Discuss Impact of New State 911 Funding Plan

Jefferson County Commissioners Paul Corbin James McIntyre Jeffrey PisarcikBROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Phone bills will increase slightly, but it means Jefferson County’s 911 system and those across the state will see the benefits of increased funding now that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed Act 12 of 2015 into law.

The new law increases the 911 surcharge on all telephone lines to $1.65, or an increase of 15 cents for landlines and 65 cents for each cell phone line.

Jefferson County Commissioners Paul Corbin, James McIntyre, and Jeffrey Pisarcik discussed the new law during their July 15 meeting.

Pisarcik said it will take some effort for county leaders to learn all of the ways the new law impacts them.

“It’s going to be complex to understand,” Pisarcik said.

There will be 19 members of the 911 board appointed by Wolf, Pisarcik said, and the state is still in the process of coming up with a formula to distribute funds to each county.

“Supposedly, we will get reimbursed at 106 percent, and then there is 18 percent we can maybe get in competitive grants,” Pisarcik added.

A New State Formula Is Coming

Financial adviser Sam Lynch said the commonwealth is looking to address shortfalls in 911 funding.

“Yes, when we calculate out what they’re looking to do at the state level, you’re looking at about 106 percent, but all the revenue from wireless and landline is basically going to be combined into one,” Lynch said.

How much the county spends could also impact the amount they see in state funding.

“They’ll also be looking at your average expenditures over a period of time. They’ll take that into consideration, and it’s all part of the formula that will be coming out,” Lynch said.

A Possible Snag

From a county perspective, there may be a possible snag in the new law.

“What’s going to hurt is the first quarter (of the state fiscal year) from July 1 to September, you’re not going to get any funding. That money will come in the second quarter, so the county’s is going to have to basically advance your 911 operations going forward. That will be tough because you had the revenue flow, and now you’re not going to have it,” Lynch said.

Corbin said Jefferson County spends about $250,000.00 each quarter on 911 services.

Jefferson County Director of Finance Debby Hackett said the county is in a position to handle this expense until it is reimbursed, should it become necessary.

“Obviously, there are years where that would have been a real problem, but we are situated now where it won’t be quite as much of a burden. We have enough reserves that our cash flow will not be negatively impacted to the extent we would have to cease any operations or anything of that sort. Still, it’s something we have to be aware of,” Hackett said.

How To Calculate Funding

Corbin said the state funding formula will be based upon an average of the last five years of each county’s income for expenditures for 911 services, a cause for concern for nearby Forest County at the recent Northwest Commissioners meeting.

“They said they only had one year of expenditures or income (in Forest County), and in the other four years it was zero – so, is the figure based on that one year in the five year average? Obviously, they have some concerns about how it will affect them,” Corbin said.

Corbin summed up his take on the new 911 formula.

“I don’t know if it’s progress or exactly what it is, but it’s what we have to deal with,” he said.

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