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franklin county times

City council deals budget blow to E-911

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 6, 2001
Lauderdale County's emergency response system E-911 may need a temporary lifeline of its own after its current year budget was slashed Tuesday by the Meridian City Council.
Council members rejected a request from E-911 officials for operating money for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. Instead, the council opted to contribute only about 70 percent of the requested $144,000, or $101,000.
Lauderdale County and Meridian normally split the cost to operate E-911, with some funding coming from a phone surcharge of 50 cents per residential line. City and county officials signed an interlocal agreement in January doubling the surcharge and hoping to eventually wean E-911 from tax dollars.
As a safety net, city and county officials agreed to fund the system up to $450,000 more than the surcharges.
Ken Storms, Meridian's Chief Administrative Officer, said an independent study commissioned by the city showed the increase in surcharges should be enough to sustain the system, but that E-911 commission members want to give themselves a "cushion" in managing their budget.
Storms said the consolidation of services under E-911 was expected to be more cost efficient by reducing the number of dispatchers required to handle emergency calls from 18 to 14.
Payroll and other expenses are depleting those coffers, Smith said.
Storms said the city is banking on the fact that once E-911 gets over its current financial hump the surcharges will totally fund the system, but if it doesn't the city and county will be there to assist.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.