County gets OK to add fee to cellphone bills
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Monday to allow Monroe County officials to tack a surcharge of up to 30 cents onto local cellphone bills to help fund 911 operations. County officials have sought the power to impose this fee for years,[and they wonder why people from NY are leaving is such massive numbers!] but the proposal languished in Albany. The County Legislature still would have to vote to enact the surcharge before it would begin to appear on customers’ bills. New York state already adds a $1.20 fee to cellphone bills to help pay for 911, but county officials have complained that too little of that money trickles down to the local level.
This is one of few counties in the state that lacked authority to add its own 911 surcharge to wireless bills, saidAssembly Majority Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, who was a lead sponsor of the measure this legislative session. Monroe County already adds such a fee to bills for landlines, but more and more customers are dropping them. Morelle said Monday that he spoke with County Executive Maggie Brooks about the surcharge bill as recently as last weekend and that it should help bolster the local 911 system.
County 911 Director John Merklinger said a new cellphone surcharge could bring in about $1.8 million a year. That’s about one-tenth of his department’s annual budget.
Merklinger said the money would be especially welcome as the 911 center faces major equipment expenses. Among them: a $2.2 million upgrade of 911 phone systems later this year and the replacement of an aging computer system at a cost of at least $6 million in the next couple of years.
But the extra cash from a surcharge would be no magic bullet. Merklinger said that over the past 10 years, revenue collected from a 911 fee on landlines has plummeted from about $2 million a year to $800,000 a year. [BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE STATE BECAUSE OF YOUR DAMN FEES!!]
“We’re just seeing a lot of expenses and the revenue is just not there,” he said. Another wrinkle: [NEXT IN LINE?] The county still cannot collect a surcharge on increasingly popular prepaid cellphones, which are not provided through major carriers, Merklinger said.
County lawmakers had previously voted to ask the state to take action on the matter. “While obviously I am loathe to add fees and assessments, in this particular case, I think they made a compelling argument,” Morelle said. Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County, was the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. The legislation passed both chambers in June. [Progressive rebublicrat are worse than the deamonrats…at least you know deamonrats are going after you pockets, republicrat are snealy until they get into office! Then they change!]
The surcharge would apply to customers whose home or primary business address is within Monroe County. Cellphone companies would have to turn the money collected over to the county every month.
The county would be allowed to use the funding only to defray wireless 911 service costs, the law says.