Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an increase to the local 911 fee Thursday.
After a public hearing with no public testimony and some discussion among the commissioners, all five voted for the 75-cent increase on each cellphone line.
Last month, Scott Campbell, director of the Department of Public Safety, recommended the commissioners raise the fee from 75 cents on each line to $1.50 to make up for a deficit in the previous year’s revenue from the 911 fee.
According to Campbell, the Maryland Public Safety Article gives counties the authority to establish and maintain a county 911 fee in combination with the state fee, which is 25 cents.
Counties have the ability to increase that fee to a maximum of $1.50 per month to address a documented deficit, Campbell said.
“The money, the revenue that this fee would generate are dedicated, they can only be used for the authorized expenses,” Campbell said. “We do not have legal discretion, if you will, to use them for other reasons so they are very bound for this very important purpose.”
A county can raise the fee if it demonstrates that the prior year’s revenue is insufficient to operate the 911 system, and “that is the situation Carroll County finds itself in to the amount of $1,625,521,” he said in April.
“We have shown that candidly if the law would allow, the county could justify a local rate that exceeds what the law allows, the $1.50 max,” Campbell said. “I know that is the maximum but if you look at the numbers we could justify $1.72.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, called the increase “small potatoes” and said that based on the need for emergency services, this is a small price to pay.
“I truly do believe that these things are taken for granted with the fees,” Wantz said, shaking his cell phone in the air.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said that the need for emergency services in Carroll is worth raising revenues for.
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“This is the reason to increase revenues and that’s what we’re doing here,” Frazier said. “This is a very legitimate reason, this is extremely important, I’ve been harping about this for years.”