JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday supported passage of proposed state legislation to revise the formula by which wireless 911 surcharge funding is allocated so counties such as Fulton can receive a larger share.
"This is something several of the counties have made a push for recently," said County Administrative Officer Jon Stead.
He noted the board discussed the issue a couple months ago and now is asking for a "much larger" portion of wireless surcharge funding.
The board resolution passed Monday notes the state Legislature in 1991 enacted a statute that placed a monthly surcharge of 70 cents on each cell phone bill, and it was increased to $1.20 per cell phone by 2002. At the time, state officials said the wireless surcharge money was intended to help defray the cost of operating and maintaining county 911 centers throughout the state.
But the resolution indicates counties now only receive a small portion collected from the surcharge by the state each year, and funding has been diverted to other state purposes.
Stead said his "ballpark" recollection of the figures is that Fulton County was receiving about $30,000 in a wireless 911 surcharge share two years ago, but that figure is down to about $26,000 currently.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey has complained for several years his department is not receiving a large enough share to help maintain the county's 911 system.
Stead told supervisors at the County Office Building that Lorey indicated the New York State Sheriff's Association is pushing for support of Senate Bill 2.5509-B, and Assembly Bill A.8489-A. That bill would require that 58 percent of 911 wireless surcharge funds be used for grants or reimbursements to counties for development, consolidation or operation of public safety communications systems, including 911. The proposed legislation indicates the remaining 42 percent will be used for miscellaneous state expenses.
Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper asked what the current percentage is for grants and reimbursements to counties.
"I don't think there's any specific amount and that's the way the problem's always been," Stead responded.
The board urged the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve the proposed bill. The resolution said this will "ensure that local governments receive the funds necessary to upgrade 911 call centers and maintain emergency dispatch center operations in the name of public safety."
Stead said the latest public safety funding figures available show the state has collected about $1.2 billion in wireless surcharge money since 1994. He said $192 million was collected in 2011, and of that figure, only $9.3 million, or 5 percent collected, went back to localities for their 911 systems. He said $95 million went into the state's general fund, $51 million was allocated in other ways, and $25.5 million went to state police.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.