911 call centers struggle as people ditch landlines

May 6, 2014

As more people ditch their landline phones for cell phones, 911 call centers are struggling to maintain services. That’s because wireless phone lines in Illinois are often taxed at a lower rate than landlines. There’s a push to change that.

If you look at your cell phone bill, you’ll see that every line is charged 73-cents to support 911 emergency services. Ralph Caldwell, who’s the director of Champaign County’s call center, says the chunk of that tax the center receives isn’t high enough.

He’s been unable to backfill some positions or update old equipment, so he’s asked nearby cities, such as Urbana, for more money. Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing says, "We all have to pay more and more, and we’re in a real budget crunch, and we just can’t afford this, so we’re asking that the state law be changed to keep up with the technological changes."

Prussing wants the state to tax cell phones $1.50 each month, which is the same amount that landline customers pay in Champaign County.

Prussing says other cities and dispatch centers are on board with her plan to raise the tax, but she says she still has to persuade lawmakers.