Lawmakers say taxpayers pay twice for 911 system

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Each month, you pay a 911 surcharge fee in your cellphone bill. But local lawmakers say that money is not being used to keep emergency systems up-to-date.

The minimal monthly charge is small, but it adds up. Erie County Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo says it has a big impact where you live.

“That money is supposed to go toward improving electronic 911 systems throughout the counties,” he explained.

But Legislator Ed Rath says much of that money is not coming back to the county and is instead going into the state’s general fund, for use in other places.

“What they’re doing here is they’re taking this money to bail themselves out, every year. It’s a bailout for Albany… that’s really what it is,” he said.

In 2012, $200 million was collected by New York State from this surcharge, but less than $10 million was doled out to the counties, according to a resolution prepared by local lawmakers.

The Republican majority in the Erie County Legislature are calling on the state to “appropriately disburse the funds.”

“It’s tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that Erie County is not getting,” Rath said.

As technology increases, so too does the need for continual updates to the system. Nut without this money coming from the state, county lawmakers say they’re having to take from other places to make those necessary upgrades.

Lorigo said, “Be it social services, the sheriff’s office, the library, the culturals, whatever it may be… we have to use that money to pay for the electronic 911 system every year.”

Lawmakers say it’s the county taxpayers who wind up losing out on county services.

“It’s a huge deal for taxpayers… huge. I mean, they’re paying it on their cellphone bill, every single month, but not seeing the benefits,” Lorigo said.

So cell phone users wind up paying for 911 services twice, according to local lawmakers.

But the state claims they are giving out the proper amount of money. In a statement, a spokesman writes more than a hundred thousand dollars in grants have already been awarded this year.

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