CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Counties would lose nearly $2 million in E-911 fees if state lawmakers agree with a state police proposal to give the agency more of the fee revenue in order to hire additional crime lab employees to eliminate a 5,000 case backlog.
The scenario was shared Friday with members of the House of Delegates Finance Committee by state Public Service Commission Chairman Mike Albert. The PSC receives E-911 fees collected by landline and cell phone companies. The commission then distributes the money to counties, the state police, state Office of Emergency Services and the Wireless Tower Fund. The counties use the money to finance their 911 centers. The fee brought in $37.2 million last fiscal year of which $33 million went to county commissions.
The West Virginia State Police currently receives 10-cents from the fee charged on every landline and cellphone in a particular county, which resulted in nearly $1.3 million last budget year. The proposal would increase the take to 25 cents with a projected total take of $3.2 million.
State Police Superintendent Col. Jan Cahill told the committee on Feb. 23 he would like to hire 15 additional crime lab workers with the additional funds. He said most of the backlog is made up of drug cases.
“It is absolutely no exaggeration at all for us to say that 90-plus percent, probably 95 percent, of everything we do (investigations by troopers) has a drug link. If you connect the dots enough you can go back and have a drug link or just about everything we do,” Cahill told the committee.
On Friday, some committee members said although the counties would lose money in 911 fee revenue, they would save money with the backlog being eliminated because it should result in those in jail getting through the system faster and spending less time in the regional jails.
“Kanawha County would lose $122,000 (in 911 fee revenue) but in return they could save $1.5 million in regional jail bills by doing this,” Delegate Jim Butler (R-Mason) said.
Marion County Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion) said she could see the savings.
“We can save the counties money along with helping the state police if we could do something like this but I certainly wouldn’t want to hurt the counties,” she said.
The finance committee asked the PSC to prepare the numbers for its review. The commission isn’t expected to give a recommendation to the legislature. PSC Chairman Albert did predict what some county commissions may say if the fee revenue is allocated differently.
“If it’s my money it’s big if it’s your money that’s okay. I’m not being flippant but I think that’s the reaction you might get,” Albert said.