Pa.’s 911 call centers need funding renewed before expiring in 2024, officials said Monday – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

With a statute outlining surcharges for Pennsylvania’s 911 call centers set to expire in January 2024, local officials and emergency management experts urged state lawmakers to reauthorize Pennsylvania’s 911 law and boost funding for call centers at a hearing on Monday. 

Members of the state Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee heard testimony about the surcharge and what would happen to funding for 911 call centers if that funding source were allowed to expire.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Executive Deputy Director Jeffrey Boyle told lawmakers at Monday’s hearing that if the surcharge, which requires legislative approval to be renewed, lapses on Jan. 31, 2024, the costs will fall to municipalities and property owners. 

“The 911 fee is the primary funding source for our 911 system here in our state,” Boyle said. “It’s important to understand that costs not covered by the fee are the responsibility of county property tax dollars or other local revenue sources.”

Pennsylvania currently has 61 county-based 911 centers across its 67 counties, according to state officials.

Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed increasing the 911 fee to $1.97 and extending the law’s sunset date to January 2029. 

Two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to that end, hoping to avert a more dire situation as the sunset date approaches. 

State Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, have introduced legislation — SB 807 and HB 1304 — in their respective chambers to raise 911 fees from $1.65 to $1.97. 

The bills would also tie the surcharge to the inflation rate each year and extend the law’s sunset date to January 2029. 

“Under current Pennsylvania law, every telephone user pays a 911 surcharge, including a flat-rate fee of $1.65 on each wireless line, to help fund our 911 emergency telecommunication services. However, the fee has not been adjusted since 2015, and rising costs for equipment, operations, and new technology pose a problem for local 911 emergency departments,” Muth explained in a co-sponsorship memo. “Additional funding is needed to continue properly dispatching calls to keep Pennsylvanians safe during emergencies.”

Solomon’s bill passed the House in June in a 121-82 vote and was referred to the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee where Muth’s bill is also currently awaiting a vote. 

Mike Pries, chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners, shared Boyle’s concern about who would foot the bill if the 911 statute is allowed to sunset, especially as operations costs surpass revenue from the surcharge. 

“The reality is this surcharge serves as a dedicated fee for the 911 system,” Pries said. “Without an increase in funding, counties would need to fund any remaining costs through their general funds, which comes as a property tax increase.”

Pries added that counties have two main “asks” related to the 911 surcharge: that the funding “adequately supports current county needs,” and that the funding source can continue to support counties in the future. 

“Should the sunset not be met, the surcharge goes to zero and the entire system costs will default back to counties,” Pries said. “If the sunset date is extended, it continues to burden counties disproportionately, as funding obligations increase and the distribution formula cannot be adjusted.”

So far in 2023, Pries said that Dauphin County has had more than 268,000 calls for service and that its computer-aided dispatch system currently requires $1.5 million worth of updates in the next two calendar years. 

“We need the General Assembly and the governor to act now,” Pries said. “The sunset is quickly approaching in January and we cannot delay this reauthorization.”

Originally published at,by Cassie Miller

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