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New Parcel Fee Could Help Cover 911 Costs In Hamilton County

Tana Weingartner

Hamilton County Commissioners are deciding how to pay for emergency communications as current revenue sources shrink.  Before they vote, they want to hear public input on a possible solution.

Emergency communications include the people who answer when you dial 911 and the computers used to dispatch help from the right department.  It cost Hamilton County about $10.4 million to operate last year.  The money comes from the general fund, a 25 cent state-imposed tax on wireless devices, and a per-call fee from each of the served jurisdictions.

And that's part of the problem.  Some of those communities are telling residents 'in case of emergency, don't call 911.  Call police or fire department directly.'  That's so they don't have to pay what's called a "detail" fee.  It's $18.30 per call and many times communities don't get those bills until after they've set their annual budgets. 

So many people are bypassing 911, the communications center budget is starting to feel it.

Commissioners formed a task force of local government leaders and other stakeholders to find a more sustainable way to pay for the communications center and to keep communities on board.

That task force is recommending a hybrid solution: a detail fee, general fund dollars, and a parcel fee.

The parcel fee would put a charge on every property in Hamilton County.  Such fees are already legal in Ohio and are subject to referendum.

It will be up to commissioners how much the parcel fee would cost and how much communities would be charged for the detail fee.

There's a public comment session on the proposal at 11:30 Wednesday morning during the Hamilton County Commission meeting.

Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.