The Sussex County Commissioners on Sept. 8 unanimously supported bills in the state assembly and senate to allow counties and municipalities to use funds from the 911 system and Emergency Respond Trust Fund Account to pay for system maintenance.
Senate Bill S5041 and Assembly Bill A5962 also would require the money to be distributed on a prioritized basis to county, regionalized, or centralized public safety systems.
According to the commissioners’ resolution, the state has collected more than $1.4 billion in fees since 2006, with only 11 percent spent on eligible expenses. The resolution says that since 2009, New Jersey has failed to provide funding for eligible 911 expenses.
“This has been an issue facing the county where the state has taken the 911 money,” said Commissioner Herbert Yardley. “Everybody has a cell phone with little charge on there, and that money goes to the federal government, and is given back to the state and county. New Jersey has used it for everything, but the 911 service and the county has been paying that service, and other municipalities have to pay for that service, and they are not getting reimbursement.”
Commissioners Director Dawn Fantasia said New Jersey is the only state to have such egregious violations and prohibitions against applying for additional money for infrastructure upgrades.
“I’m just amazed that the state has been able to say, well, you have to do this, but we’re not going to pay you because we were going to use the money,” Yardley said. “It’s a tragedy, and it’s a travesty, and I’m glad to see that this piece of legislation has been presented.”