Assembly asked to raise 911 taxes

Mayor asks borough to collect all it can for emergency phone service

Looking to pass along hundreds of thousands of dollars in operations costs to users of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s enhanced 911 emergency phone service, the assembly Tuesday will hear public comments on the mayor’s plan to increase the monthly 911 tax by 30 cents.

The current borough tax of $1.50 per month raises about $1.2 million in revenue each year, about half of the total expense, according to Craig Chapman, director of finance. 

The 30 cent increase would add an additional $242,000 toward the expected total revenue needed to balance the 2014 E911 department budget of $2 million. The remaining money comes from charges to other emergency service providers, such as the Nikiski Fire Department.  

State law allows the borough to collect 100 percent of the expense to operate the 911 program. 

Though previous budgets have not collected all of the 911 tax allowed, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said his proposed 2014 budget is predicated on the assembly passing Tuesday’s measure to increase the 911 tax. 

If passed, the higher charge would take effect immediately. 

Even the 30 cent increase will not cover all the 911 expense, Navarre said.

As currently proposed, the 2014 total borough budget expenditures exceed expected revenues by about $500,000; if the assembly votes no on the 911 tax increase, a total of about $750,000 will be spent out of the borough’s general fund savings to reach a balanced budget, Navarre said. Any general fund money not spent on 911 services will stay put and help rebuild the overall general fund balance, he said.

Expenses for the enhanced 911 system are projected to continue to outstrip revenue into 2017, according to borough budget documents. 

In 2011 the borough contracted a Michigan company to provide computer aided 911 call service for emergency, police and fire adding tens of thousands of dollars to the expense budget. According to borough documents, the 2012 call volume for enhanced 911 emergency calls was 21,831 and 43,596 for police and fire calls, including enhanced serves for wireless 911 calls which now comprise about 56 percent of all emergency calls.

The 911 tax is collected each month by the phone companies and is listed in detail on each phone bill.

While most of the sought increase will go to cover former general fund contributions, which was $329,065 in the 2013 budget, there are some actual departmental expense increases for fiscal year 2014. 

A $93,000 increase over 2013 is mostly accounted for by adding a half-time position to the 911 workforce and a 39 percent increase in overtime projected for the year. Retirement accounts, insurance and vacation account for the remainder of the increase in expenses proposed in the 2014 budget. 

A public hearing on the matter is planned for 6 p.m. tonight during the assembly’s regularly scheduled meeting in their chambers in the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna.  

 

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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