With New Jersey lawmakers busy in Trenton working on the next fiscal year’s State Budget, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden is calling on the legislature and Governor Christie to stop the diversion of $120 million per year that cell phone users pay for the express purpose of maintaining and upgrading 911 emergency infrastructure throughout the state.
Golden first raised the issue last summer, days after the current fiscal year budget took effect. Yesterday, the Sheriff highlighted the issue in an interview with NJTV’s Brenda Flanagan.
Cell phone users pay $.90 per month in their bills for 911 infrastructure. Monmouth County hasn’t seen any of that money in a decade despite County residents contributing $5.5 million per year. The cost of the 750,000 911 calls dispatched in Freehold is borne by property taxpayers.
New Jersey’s 911 call centers and first responders do not use the latest available technology in responding to emergencies due to the money being diverted into the Trenton black hole. Smartphones have the ability to send photos and video in 911 messages, but New Jersey’s emergency dispatchers are not equipped to get those photos and videos to police, fire and EMS first responders.
Governor Christie’s proposed budget includes new revenue of $13 million from closing a loophole and collecting fees from prepaid phone sales. Golden is not optimistic that any of that money will make its way to County Emergency Call Centers.
“It’s not a dedicated fee. The bill doesn’t read, ‘dedicated fee’ on the prepaid phones. So if you go by the current funding formula of zero for the counties, on the prepaid phones, we would assume zero,” Golden said.