Newschannel 6 is learning more about 911 funding cuts that could affect your safety. A majority of counties in Texas are receiving 25 percent less money from the state. Nine of our 11 counties are part of the chopping block. All but Wichita and Wilbarger Counties are seeing state cuts.
Officials with Nortex Regional Planning Commission, the agency who oversees our 911 call centers told Newschannel 6 they have major concerns about equipment replacement and future safety training.
"For us locally it's really hindering us to provide 911 services to the rural area," said Nortex Regional Planning Commission Executive Director, Dennis Wilde.
He said small cuts began years ago until most recently when drastic measures were taken.
"The effect so far is we can't get public education out there. We like to get in school systems and spell out 911 programs so the kiddos can understand 911 and when to dial that important number," said Wilde. "We haven't been able to do call-taker training for emergency personnel that answer the calls."
The budget reduction is something Nortex is slowing learning to cope with. For several years emergency call centers have tried to implement texting to 911 because for now operators can only receive voice calls. Despite being in a "digital age" that next transition will sit idle.
"If you're in a hostage situation in a school system where you're wanting to remain silent that's where texting can come into play, obviously it will be sometime before we get to that," said Wilde.
There are other issues Nortex is dealing with. Every month from every phone bill there is a 50 cent fee added to support 911 call centers. That money goes to a state fund and then legislatures decide how much money comes back to 911 centers. Our area has such a small budget, $650,000 to be precise. That means Nortex relies on receiving money from taxed long distance calls on land lines to meet their budget. Since many people use cell phones the agency is not getting the same tax money it would normally receive from land lines. That makes their job of funding and keeping people safe a little more difficult.
The reason Wichita and Wilbarger Counties are not part of those cuts is because they are districts outside of the state system. Districts are in or around all medium to large Texas cities.