Audit cites 9-1-1 books on budget expenditures

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Expenditures not set forth as line-item budget expenditures were cited in the Elizabethton Carter County Emergency Communications District's 2001-2002 budget.
   "We were written up for expenditures that exceeded the budgeted amount," Glenna Morton, interim executive director of the district told the board at its bimonthly meeting held Tuesday.
   The audit, conducted and submitted by accountant Margaret Moses for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, reported findings primarily dealing with district expenditures not listed as a line-item budget request.
   Among expenditures cited in the audit, the district had paid $900 in accumulated vacation time for two employees who resigned last year.
   Expense for administrative fees paid to Sprint, the purchase of three chairs, $10.49 spent for office supplies, and increased membership dues paid to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency were other expenditures the audit cited as non-line item budget spending.
   Morton said the budget would have to be amended to Moses for another audit. The audit had not been submitted to the state comptroller's office, she said.
   The board also discussed the district's proposed 2003-2004 budget, which is due to be submitted to the City of Elizabethton on Friday. The budget includes an increase in funding from the city and county to the tune of $92,350. The city funded the district with $85,350 and the county appropriated $85,000.
   Morton said she had frozen all spending for new equipment and had cut building maintenance funding. She also said she had not included a request to fund an additional full-time dispatcher due to the estimated additional cost of $23,000 including salary and benefits.
   "We need it desperately," said Morton of the new position. "I had to go with what we could afford."
   The board will not approve the budget until funding appropriations from the city and county are established.
   A possible funding engine for the district could be an increase in surcharges for 9-1-1 service tacked on through the local telephone provider Sprint.
   Presently, the 9-1-1 District sets a service surcharge of 65 cents for residential and $2 for business customers billed through Sprint telephone service bills.
   Morton said the Washington County 9-1-1 Service Board had raised their surcharge rates from 65 cents to $1.10 for residential and $2 to $2.45 for business customers in January. A similar rate increase could generate approximately $33,000 in new revenues per month.
   The board has discussed the rate issue but did not propose or pass a motion to raise the surcharge rate. Board member Jim Burrough said that if the district truly wished to become a financially self-sufficient entity, it would have to depend upon a new revenue engine.
   "We operate off a fund balance for several years now," Burrough said. "It was my understanding when we established (the district) that it would be self-sufficient at a later date."
   Board member and county executive, Dale Fair, also felt the District should move forward to become self-sufficient as a financial organization.
   "You can't always depend on the city and county to do it," said Fair.
   However, the district's self-sufficiency could be easier said than done.
   Morton said that after speaking with other local 9-1-1 administrators, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board might not be enthusiastic to allow a 9-1-1 board to become self sufficient, she said.
   "I don't think it will ever be self-sufficient," said board member Terry Arnold. "We're still far behind the times."