Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

budget proposal up 259 percent|[6/30/05]

Emergency communications for the city and county are expected to cost much more next fiscal year, the new dispatch-center manager said in his first budget.

The director of the E-911 dispatch center, Geoffrey Greetham, on Wednesday presented members of the center’s governing board with a proposed budget of about $2 million, up 259 percent from the current year’s $818,668.

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Most of the increase will pay for more employees, replacement of computer software and hardware and adding new capabilities for the center, Greetham said.

The budget proposes to spend all but about $50,000 of the center’s cash reserve of about $550,000, anticipates $515,174 in fees from customers with wired and cellular telephones and would require subsidies from the city and county governments totaling nearly $1 million.

The subsidy has been paid as a negotiated split between the city and county governments to make up the difference between expenses and fee receipts from phone customers. By state law, phone customers pay monthly surcharges of $1 for each home or cell-phone line and $2 for each business land line. Nearly 30 cents of every dollar collected in cell-phone fees is earmarked for return to cell-phone companies, however, so a shift toward increased use of that technology can cut E-911 centers’ expected revenue.

The center’s insurance coverage allows it to draw down its cash reserve, Greetham said. The remaining amount is ample to meet any insurance-deductible payments, he added.

The largest item in Greetham’s proposed budget is $888,816 for capital expenditures. About $500,000 to $600,000 of that amount is budgeted to pay for a comprehensive upgrade of the center’s computer system that was due to be replaced, Greetham said.

The remaining $289,000 to $389,000 in capital expenditures is to pay for other projects and additions such as: