County approves 911 surcharge |

County approves 911 surcharge

A 50-cent increase in the 911 surcharge was approved by the Douglas County commission 4-1 on Thursday.

The increase will affect individual cell phones, home phones and trunk lines and will go to fund the Douglas County Emergency 911 system.

Commissioner Dave Nelson was the lone vote against the measure, saying he’d done a lot of soul-searching.

“I consider a fee something like a fishing license that you don’t need to have,” he said. “A phone in these days is a necessity of life so I consider it a tax.”

The first reading of the ordinance was approved in September and the second reading was approved at the commissioners’ Stateline meeting.

The surcharge would increase by 50 cents for individual customers and $5 a month per trunk line.

Due to the limited response, Emergency Communications Director Ron Sagen said the current rate is insufficient to operate the county’s 911 system, which without it will require increased subsidies from the general fund.

The 911 fund is projected to lose $101,272 this fiscal year. The increase will stabilize the fund and prepare for additional costs over the next four years.

The cost of the 911 system is $398,090 per year with a possible 5 percent increase from the phone company.

“Our current revenue source provides $149,000 per year, leaving an increasing deficit each year,” Sagen said. “I’m thinking some people believe we would have a massive surplus. That isn’t the case, we would generate approximately $48,910 the first year in surplus, then it reduces with the projected increases from our local dial-tone provider. Regardless of the surplus amount, by law we cannot use those funds for anything except for maintaining, enhancing or improving the emergency 911 system.”

Alpine County, East Fork Fire District, Tahoe Douglas Fire District and the Washoe Tribe all use the county’s 911 dispatch system in addition to the sheriff’s office.

Sagen said next generation 911 will take up part of the increase, which includes texting and video to 911.