Change in funding for 911 centers

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TUNKHANNOCK, WYOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Counties across the commonwealth could see state funding cuts to its 911 centers. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has been planning to restructure how it distributes funds.

PEMA plans to pull funding from 30 counties and give the money to the 37 other county 911 centers. Which some say could hurt Wyoming and surrounding counties in the process.

PEMA distributes millions of dollars to 911 centers across the commonwealth’s 67 counties each year. It is now looking at restructuring how it determines how much each county gets for funding. The formula could be based on population, a blow to rural counties.

“One of the recommended formulas would be call volumes, based level cost, what it takes to operate a 911 center.. they are not taking any of that into consideration,” Wyoming County 911 Director Jeff Porter said.

Porter says in 2019 county dispatchers received 44,000 911 calls with a population of nearly 27,000 in the same year according to the U.S. Census Bureau. PEMA is looking to cut 50 percent of Wyoming County’s funding.

With an operating budget of $1.6 million, PEMA issues $1.3 million of that. The rest is paid for by the county. Over the next three years, funding from the state will decrease $675,000, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.

“We’re busier than some of the counties that have a larger population and the rural areas are that are taking the biggest hit out of this,” Porter said.

With a population of 40,000, Susquehanna County could be taking a 25 percent blow to its state funding.

“Any cut in funds is detrimental to any 911 center. You know we rely on those heavily from the state,” Susquehanna County Director of Public Safety & 911 Coordinator Brad Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth says Susquehanna County could see a $300,000 decrease in funding over the same period while operating and maintenance costs are similar with higher populated counties.

“Population, yes we are different from the higher population areas, but our 911 equipment is the same for the safety of the residents,” Ellsworth said.

Back at the Wyoming County 911 Center, Porter tells Eyewitness News he has been working with county commissioners, State Representatives Lisa Baker and Karen Boback to keep funding the same.

The 911 Advisory board plans to vote on the new funding measures on Thursday June 18th.

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