Jefferson County Hopes To See Benefit As State Restructures 911 Funding

Jefferson County Flag LogoBROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – The state is changing the way counties will receive emergency 911 fees, and Jefferson County leaders are “cautiously optimistic” the county will eventually benefit from the changes.

All phone bills contain an E-911 fee designed to fund 911 services in the state. With the passage of Act 12 of 2015, those fees are now a uniform $1.65 across all types of phone lines.

Act 12 does more than change the fees; it also changes how counties receive funding from the pool of money the fees create.

In the past, counties kept the funds for land lines within their borders and then applied for grants to receive money generated by cell phone and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) lines.

Now funding is derived from a state formula with 80 percent of state funds distributed to the 69 911 call centers throughout the state, including Jefferson County.

Under Act 12, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) will establish a statewide 911 plan and uniform standards for technology, administration, and operation of 911 systems.

PEMA will also establish a 39-member 911 board to advise on regulations and guidelines.

What It Means in Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Commissioners passed a resolution August 11 to accept state funding as it come in to the county.

Tracy Zents, Director of the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Services, said 911 operations within the county cost about $250,000 per quarter, or $1 million each year.

State funding has provided about $660,000 of that amount in the past, leaving the county to pay about $340,000.

Those figures may remain unchanged in the short term, but Zents believes the county will benefit over the long haul.

“Early on we should be seeing close to what we get now, but once the 911 board comes back with a formula, we’ll have to see how that works. I’m cautiously optimistic it will benefit us and we’ll be using less of our general taxpayer funds to pay for 911 operations,” Zents said.

The county’s accounting practices will need to change with the new formula.

“We have been working with the county commissioners, treasurer’s office, and the fiscal department to get a plan in place. In most instances, it should streamline funding,” Zents said.

Additionally, Zents said certain sections of Act 12 mean it would benefit the county to consider regional projects with neighboring counties or task forces when upgrading equipment or technology since more funding will be available.

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