Photo by Wendy Davis

The ETSB discusses the FY20 budget and considers new funding for telecommunicators.

Proposed fiscal year 2020 budgets were presented to the Emergency Telephone Systems Board at its August meeting Wednesday.

Eric Raymond, 9-1-1 director, hadn’t get had his time in front of the Iroquois County Board Finance Committee as it starts to prepare the county’s FY20 budget. It has had budget hearings in the past week allowing department and outside organizations to give recommendations for what they want financially.

Raymond prepared two for the group. There were two issues brought before the board.

One pertained to the funding of the telecommunicators’ salaries.

Telecommunicators are paid through joint dispatch, which traditionally split the salaries equally between the county, the city of Watseka and ETSB. Last year, ETSB paid $225,000 compared to the county and city each paying $115,000, as the the county and city told ETSB they were struggling financially and needed.

Raymond asked the ETSB members what their suggestion was on how the salaries should be funded this year.

It was suggested by board members to approach the county to ask that a portion of the public safety tax money be used to pay the salaries, as well. This would mean the county and city would pay $120,000, the ETSB would pay $100,000, and $125,000 would come from the public safety tax monies. Otherwise, it would be $155,000 each.

Raymond said ETSB is having to prepare to pay for a lot of new equipment purchases which are a part of NextGen 9-1-1, an revamping of the state’s 9-1-1 systems updating them, at the goal of by 2020, with new technologies like accepting texts and photos through 9-1-1.

It was brought up at Thursday’s Iroquois County Board Finance Committee meeting, specifically by its chairman Michael McTaggart, that, yes, NextGen 9-1-1 is mandated by the state by 2020, but Iroquois County doesn’t have to be on the forefront.

Raymond has pointed out that there are grants which will cover portions of the expected purchases, but a lot of the grants are grants to reimburse the costs.

He told the ETSB there should be enough money in the public safety tax fund to give a portion to ETSB. He said it was expected that the fund would take in more than $400,000 a year, and he knows that so far just the sheriff’s department, via sheriff Derek Hagen, and EMA director Eric Ceci have asked for a portion. ETSB, he noted, is directly responsible for public safety, which the tax was promised it would go to. Plus, last year when the county asked that ETSB pay the extra for the salaries, ETSB responded that it would but the county would need to remember this extra money given in the next fiscal year when it would be needing to spend extra monies relating to NextGen 9-1-1.

Board member Doug Morgeson said the county needs to be in compliance.

He said ETSB helped the county last year “I hope they remember that” and it’s “what we agreed to”.

Another issue brought before the board was what equipment it would want to expect to purchase in FY20.

Raymond’s put the budgets together with a major difference being $200,000 in the purchase of equipment line item: one with $340,000 and the other with $540,000.

What the 9-1-1 center needs includes a CAD (computer aided dispatch) system, he said, as the current one is more than 20 years old.

It also needs a new recording system. This he has priced at about $24,000.

As part of NextGen 9-1-1 GIS mapping will need to be done. Iroquois County has GIS mapping in place, but for NextGen 9-1-1 additional layers will be needed. He said some of the county’s current layers can be used, but it will also need layers like road center lines, emergency service boundaries and previsionary boundaries, to name a few. He said the current GIS company can still be used to do this. The expected cost is $100,000-150,000.

What there’s question on is a new radio system.

Raymond said there’s no quote for one yet, but sees the cost to be more than $200,000.

To put to the costs of the new equipment, he said, there is $133,000 waiting in grant monies.

There’s also $500,000 in “savings” for ETSB, and purchasing all four items needed would use half of that, he pointed out.

As for revenues, Raymond said he put $520,000 to be taken in from phone surcharge tax. He said the state has decreased it from $1.50 per phone to $1.42, but due to the number of phones in Iroquois County “It won’t hit too hard”. He also pointed out that the state is behind in its payments of this money.

A change in the budget, too, he said, is he’s asking to add three part time telecommunicators. He said this would alleviate a lot of overtime used, and it would mean there would be someone to fall back on if someone does leave their job.

The ETSB asked that Raymond present a budget to the county which included all four purchases and asks the county to use public safety tax monies to pay joint dispatch.