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Where does the $1.20 911 service fee on your cell phone bill go?

Posted at: 01/29/2013 11:45 AM
Updated at: 01/29/2013 7:05 PM

Did you know you pay a $1.20 surcharge on your cell phone bill every month? So where does that money go? News10NBC found out it's supposed to go to fund 911 centers, but they're not getting as much as they should.    
According to the Monroe County 911 director, last year, the cell phone surcharges in New York State totaled almost $200 million. Of that, Monroe County was given about a half a million dollars. News10NBC wanted to know where the rest of it was going and whether those extra dollars would make you safer.

Last year, calls to 911 in Monroe County jumped by 50,000.

911 director John Merklinger would love to hire more employees to keep up with that demand, but his hands are tied budget wise.

John Merklinger, Monroe County 911 Director, said, “They think the money's coming to the local 911 center and it's not. I think if most people knew that it would make them mad.”

Would you be mad if you heard money that's supposed to go to public safety and communication, for example, 911 centers, isn't getting there?

Merklinger said, “Our elected officials should demand to know where this money is and where it's going and why it isn't going to 911 and they should support any legislation that puts the money back to the local 911 centers.”

The surcharge on your cell phone bill is $1.20. Last year, nearly $200 million was raised across the state from that tax. Monroe County received nearly a half of million of those dollars. Here's how Merklinger says the rest of it breaks down:
-$25 million to the state police
-$20 million for loans
-$45 million for grants.
$80 million is unaccounted for.

Merklinger said, “I like to get an answer from somebody as to what's happening with that $80 million pool that nobody can tell me where it's going. I believe that money should go to the counties. The public thinks it's going to pay for 911 service. It's shouldn't be going to the state general fund.”

Merklinger says it's money that could be used to make our 911 system in Monroe County more effective and keep you safer.

Merklinger said, “All the 911 centers in the state have needs like updating their radio equipment and changing out their computer systems for next generation 911, but quite honestly, no one has the money for that and all of us could use that funding for that purpose.”

When Merklinger talking about "next generation 911" he is referring to 911 centers wanting to be able to not only track calls from things other than phones, like maybe Skype on your computer, but they also want to implement a system to accept text messages.

Merklinger says another upgrade that would be specific for Rochester is better options for our deaf community.

Click here to read a copy of the letter Merklinger encourages residents to send to their lawmakers