DeKalb County landline telephone subscribers can expect a rate increase for 911 services within sixty days.
The DeKalb County Emergency Communications District has received approval from the state board to implement the increase and to notify telephone service providers within the ECD.
In a letter dated May 24 to Director Brad Mullinax of the local ECD, Lynn Questell, Executive Director of the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, wrote that "this letter concerns the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District's application to increase the 911 services charge on landlines in DeKalb County. On May 19, the Tennessee Emergency Communications board approved this request pursuant to (state law). Accordingly, the Board of Directors of the DeKalb County ECD may increase the emergency telephone service charge within DeKalb County to the following effective May 19, 2011:
The new rates will be $1.50 per month for residence-classification service users (up from the currrent rate of 65 cents) and $3.00 per month for business-classification users (up from the current rate of $2.00 per month).
You are hereby authorized and encouraged to immediately notify the telephone service providers delivering landline service within your ECD of the rate increase. Such service providers shall implement the new rate classification within sixty calendar days of receiving notice of the increase," wrote Questell
Mullinax told WJLE Friday that he has sent notification to the telephone service providers by certified mail.
The state (ECD) board will review the rate again with three years. According to Questell's letter " Within three years of the date of approval, DeKalb County ECD shall submit a financial report to the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board consistent with TECB policy at which time the TECB will consider the propriety of maintaining the rate".
DeKalb County landline telephone subscribers have been paying the same rates for 911 services since 1994..
Facing ever increasing costs and declining revenues due to fewer landline telephones, the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 board of directors) decided several months ago to seek an 85 cent per month increase for residential lines and a $1.00 increase per month for business lines. The proposed increase is expected to generate more than $88,000 per year.
Mullinax said the rate increase is needed "We have seen a decrease in the number of landlines over the years. That's not cell phones but the telephones you have in your house. It is and has been the basis of our funding since 1994 when 911 was first set up in DeKalb County. But over the last several years, people have been dropping their landlines and going exclusively with cell phones because its cheaper for them. The problem is it affects 911 services because that's where our funding comes from. For at least the past three years we've seen about a seven percent decrease in our funding from our landline 911 rates. Our revenue is going down but our costs keep going up."
Mullinax adds that while the local 911 operation does receive funds from cell phones, it has no control over those rates. " We do get money from cell phones and there's often times a misconception about that. You are paying a dollar surcharge on each cell phone you have. If you have three cell phones then you're paying a $3.00 911 surcharge. The problem is that the State of Tennessee keeps 75% of that money and we are allocated only 25% of that wireless money based on our population. Even though just about everybody has a cell phone, we don't get anywhere close to receiving the amount of money we need from cell phones to support us. From my understanding, it would take a change of state law to change the way the money is allocated or the fee that is charged on a cell phone."
In March, the DeKalb County ECD Board adopted a resolution seeking approval from the Tennessee ECB to enact the rate increases.
Members of the board are Chairman Ron Rogers, Billy Adcock , County Commissioners Wayne Cantrell, Marshall Ferrell, Elmer Ellis, Jr., and Jerry Scott, Smithville Alderman Steve White, and County Mayor Mike Foster.