Workload causing budget concerns for county 911

A revenue shortfall over at the Ray County Courthouse is trickling down to other departments, including 911.
The Ray County 911 Board is asking the county to supply the department with an additional employee to handle paperwork dealing with warrants. The board has proposed hiring two full-time individuals, with 911 picking up the tab for the second employee.
911 Director Scott Enss told the board at their monthly meeting last night that he has been over to the commissioner’s office on a daily basis lobbying for the additional employee, but said indications from the commissioners are not positive.
Board members Paul Harris and John Davis questioned whether or not it is the responsibility of County 911 to do the data entry work.
“We are a dispatch service. That’s all we are,” Harris told the Board. “[The county] needs to be the ones responsible. If the county doesn’t want to provide an employee, they can have the whole ball of wax.”
Enss told board members that some of the problem could be alleviated with just one additional employee. Board President Mike Arnold suggested they ask the commissioners if they will pay for half a person. However other board members said the department was already compromising by offering to pay for one employee. Enss told the board there is enough work for two employees. He said commissioners have offered to send help over, however, Enss said the job is technical and requires extensive training so not just anyone could perform the work.
Board member Norm Hemmerling said handling the data work was never a problem until the last couple of years. He said in the last three to five years the workload has increased to the point the department is at now.
“It’s not a five minute process,” Hemmerling said about entering the information into a computer. “In the past it could be done, because there was not this much volume.”
Ray County Presiding Commissioner Jeff Adams said the county is facing revenue shortfalls and every department in the county is feeling the pinch. He said it’s frustating having to tell people no. One full-time employee with benfits would cost about $24,000.
“I can’t hire someone while I’m making cuts,” Adams said. “It’s a bad deal. We want to do it. We just don’t think we’ll have the money.”
Hemmerling also told board members that the court system is also swamped with work, so just simply shifting the work across the street will not work either.
Hemmerling told board members that entering the warrant information is a critical position. He said it is of the utmost importance that mistakes are not made. He said if a person is arrested on a warrant that should have been taken out of the system, it could mean legal trouble.
“There’s no room for error. It’s still our responsibility to make sure that warrant gets taken out,” he said. “There is some severe litigation that can come down from that.”
In other areas there is some relief for County 911’s budget. In the past many of the entities the department serviced were not providing any funding to the department. Now, the department is collecting from other county entities. Last year’s budget was boosted by more than $65,000 from dispatch fees collected.
In a recent state audit of the 911 system, State Information Security Director R.D. Porter said, in his assessment, the additional funding should help sustain operations in the near future but funding needed to be addressed in the future.
Porter listed two options. The first option would be to have the matter settled at the state level with legislation. The other option would be to address the issue through a sales tax.
Enss said there are no plans for putting a tax on the ballot anytime in the near future.

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