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Elmira/Corning

911 centers fighting for surcharge ahead of Next Generation 911

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: 911 centers fighting for surcharge ahead of Next Generation 911
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The state appears to be facing a fight over $1.20. The 911 fee for that amount on your cell phone bill has been a sticking point before. But as YNN's Andrew Sorensen reports, some people consider that money a matter of life and death.

UTICA, N.Y. -- When you need help, you call 911. But that may not always be the case.

"Eventually they'll be able to send pictures of incidents," Oneida County Director of Emergency Services Kevin Revere said.

He said 911 centers are doing required upgrades next year called Next Generation 911.

"Which going to improve public safety, it's going to improve safety of first responders,” Revere explained.

You'll even be able to text for help, but…

"All of that costs money," said Revere.

And 911 centers say they're getting short-changed.

"Each one of us that gets a cell phone bill every month, if you look on that, there's $1.20 charge," said Revere.

The state says $0.70 goes to public safety and communications and the other $0.50 go to the general fund.

"Our estimates [are] that they're taking almost $1 million out of Oneida County and they're giving back $120,000," Revere said.

That's number he said is nowhere near where it's supposed to be.

"Life and death issues and they're holding the money hostage," Revere said.

Even if you've never called 911, these costs still affect you. Why? The county is forced to make up the difference by tacking it onto your tax bill.

"You're looking at a one to two percent swing in the property tax," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente.

Picente said they would like to cover the cost in other ways.

"And we're not allowed to do what 49 other counties are doing," he added.

Oneida County is one of seven counties pushing for a $0.30 county surcharge on phone bills, but they've been turned away by the state. There are few options left.

"It's just something you don't want to sue another government about," said Picente.

The only good news is the state says it's making an additional $102 million in grants available, but that's no guarantee of help.

Congress has also been looking into this issue. They say New York is one of five states left not returning money directly to 911 centers.

The New York State 911 Coordinators Association recently filed an FCC dispute over New York's submissions to Congress.

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