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McLean Co. ETSB could see deficit

McLean Co. ETSB could see deficit

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BLOOMINGTON - The board overseeing the county's enhanced 911 system could operate with a budget deficit for the first time in 2007, according to figures from a budget committee.

The McLean County Emergency Telephone System Board's projected revenues are a little over $1.8 million, and about $328,000 shy of projected expenses for 2007.

Interim ETSB Administrator Jeff Thompson said the ETSB budget is listed as an action item on the meeting for the full board Nov. 28. Discussions by the budget committee will be presented to the board, he said, and the budget would be open for further discussion by the full board and possibly a vote.

The potential shortfall is the result of shrinking income from landline phone fees and increased reliance on the ETSB for funds for Metcom, the dispatch center covering most of the county, said Glenn Wilson, chair of the ETSB's budget committee.

"The reason why we are running into a shortfall this year is because we're being asked to pick up a lot of the budget from Metcom, of which Bloomington withdrawing from the combined communication center has impacted them," Wilson said.

But Bloomington City Manager Tom Hamilton said he doesn't think the city's withdrawal is related Metcom's budget shortfall. He said the city agreed to continue providing money to the dispatch center to prevent such a shortfall, and he isn't aware if increased costs have affected Metcom's budget.

In withdrawing from Metcom, Bloomington agreed to contribute $340,893 to Metcom over the next three years to soften the financial impact to Normal and McLean County.

The agreement calls for Normal and McLean County to increase their annual contributions by 8.75 percent from 2006 through 2008 and for the ETSB to increase its contribution by 8.75 percent in 2007 and 2008. The city began operating its own dispatch center in late June.

Wilson said increased use of cellular phones in place of landlines has cut into revenue for the ETSB. The board receives about $1.20 every month for each landline in the county and about 50 cents for every cell phone, he said.

Metcom Director Tony Cannon said six employees were cut from his agency on Bloomington's withdrawal, but other operating costs remained about the same. Hamilton said the funds given by Bloomington are meant to cover such expenses.

Cannon also said Metcom is expected to incur new monthly charges for added communication lines, increased costs for a new radio system carried by many agencies and one-time expenses for air conditioning and plumbing maintenance.

Cannon said he expects operation costs will level out in 2008. He described his own agency's budget as "bare-bones," but adequate to meet needs.

Wilson said potential solutions for the ETSB include increased prudence in expenses and asking Normal and McLean County to share in the new expenses.

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