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County Officials Push For Increase In Cell Tax For 911 Call Centers

Jenna Dooley

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

If you look at your cell phone bill, you’ll see that every line is charged $0.73 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.

Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

He’s been unable to backfill some positions or update old equipment, so he’s asked nearby cities, such as Urbana, for more money. Here’s Urbana Mayor LaurelPrussing.

"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 said.

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.

Copyright 2014 WNIJ Northern Public Radio

Ryan Weber