Emergency communications service in Michigan counties: Part Two

The “Guide to Michigan County Government” is a great source of detailed information about the structure, function and services provided by counties in Michigan.

Emergency communications service in Michigan counties: Part One covered some of the basics of 911 service. Here’s more detail from the fifth edition of the “Guide to Michigan County Government” about funding sources and some basics on Next Generation 911.

Funding 

Michigan has a statewide surcharge that is defined in MCL 484.1401. The act describes in detail the collection and distribution process, as well as the percentages that are to be shared with the following entities: counties-40 percent equal shares and 60 percent per capita, 911 network costs to deliver wireless calls to Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs), 911 training, administering the act and funding the State 911 Office, and the Michigan State Police to operate a regional dispatch center.

County Boards of Commissioners have historically carried the primary responsibility of funding 911 services. In addition to the share of the statewide surcharge that counties receive, some counties add general fund dollars to support their PSAP operations, while others use a special voter-approved property tax millage. PA 379 of 2008 also allows counties to assess a monthly surcharge on all devices which can be at a higher level with voter approval.

The statute also provides for a technical charge assessed by landline providers to cover their costs of providing the 911 service. Limited federal funds have also been available in the form of grants.

Future

The legislature recognized in the 2008 statutory updates that future updates would be needed since movement is already underway toward a Next Generation system, known as NG911. The State 911 Committee’s (SNC) 2011 plan envisions that NG911 will need to be capable of receiving messages through text and other internet services, video, photographs and automatic crash notification systems, and that “interconnected networks will lead to more effective and efficient call processing.” The plan states that “Michigan PSAPs will maintain their current excellent standard of 911 service delivery as they migrate to Next Generation 911.”

The plan further recognizes that “County Boards of Commissioners are in the best position to understand the needs and operations of local emergency service providers and citizens.” It also points out that “evolving technology may lead to regional or other cooperative governance mechanisms.”

County Boards of Commissioners will need to work closely with their PSAP and local emergency services providers, including their sheriff, to stay up-to-date on current issues, technological improvements, funding needs and public expectations for emergency communications services.

Watch for future Michigan State University Extension articles with more information about county government. Professor VerBurg’s book, “Guide to Michigan County Government, Fourth Edition”, is available in electronic form online on a CD or a USB drive with nearly 500 pages of detailed information about county government and extensive footnotes to constitutional and statutory information. The update process is underway to be sure the information and statutory notations are current, with rollout of the fifth edition expected early 2017.

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