Last month the board of the Mobile County Communications District approved its second budget since the 2-year-old Alabama 911 Board adopted an across the board revenue distribution system for all of Alabama’s 911 districts.
This MCCD’s $15 million of planned expenditures were balanced down to the penny with this year’s operational fund balance in the budget, which is just under the $16.9 million in total revenue the District has projected for 2015.
For years, 911 services were funded through a tax on landline phones that were able to utilize a county’s emergency services. Those fees were paid directly to the local district or in Mobile’s case, the MCCD.
“Up until two years ago, cell phone fees were collected at the state level by a 911 wireless board, and those were distributed to each district based on population,” MCCD Director Gary Tanner said. “Now the statewide board collects all landline and all cell phone monies, and distributes an amount based on a formula in that 2011 legislation.”
The 13-member State board distributes funding monthly to each district. In January, the state board reported 4.7 million connections from phone users, which were each assessed a $1.60 fee.
According to reports from the Alabama 911 board, the connections generated $7.5 million, which was added to more than $1 million of revenue from prepaid service charges to create the more than $8 million distributed to various districts that month.
Last October, the restructuring of the fee increased the fee for cellular phones from 70 cents to the $1.60 for all residents in Alabama. However, during the same time period, commercial landline telephone users saw their 911 fees drop from $4.75 to $1.60.
Though they were intended to stay the same for five years, the rates increased to $1.75 in August of this year. Tanner said the increase occurred after a request by the state board was made to the legislative oversight committee to raise the rates to $1.80, which was eventually negotiated down to $1.75 after input from Senate President Pro Temp Del Marsh.
Per the legislation, the current distribution method will continue through 2019, and Tanner said 2015 will be the MCCD’s first full year projecting income using the new formula.
According to its 2015 budget, the MCCD is expecting around $11.5 million in income from the monthly payments it will receive from the state 911 board. That figure added to $2 million in a reserve CD and $3.5 million listed in a checking account make up the $16.9 million in total income listed above.
As for operational costs, the district’s biggest planned expenditure is the $5.4 million set aside for capital improvements to the metro radio systems. The second largest expense comes from personnel costs, which includes approximately $2 million in salaries for the 32 employees on the MCCD payroll.
The volunteer board members of the MCCD are appointed by the Mobile County Commission, which established the district in 1984.
Though the Commission is its appointing authority, the Mobile County Personnel Board does not govern MCCD employees. However, Tanner said the MCCD typically follows the guidelines of the personnel board for its salary ranges and merit increases.
The MCCD uses pay ranges for its employees, and what portion of the compensation range depends on each employee’s “length of service and whether or not they have qualified for merit raises each year.”
Several merit increases have come before the MCCD’s board over the past several months including five annual salary increases approved this month for an IT Director ($106,000), Network Analyst III ($91,416), Network Analyst II ($69,000) and a GIS Analyst I ($54,000).
Some of those positions have worked for MCCD more than a decade, which has an effect on their overall salary if they’ve consistently received merit raises.
In an attempt to compare the salaries of similar positions on the personnel board, multiple attempts were made to contact the Mobile County Personnel Board and Personnel Director Donald Dees. At the time of this report’s publication, none of those attempts had been successful.
MCCD’s Deputy Director Charlie McNichol also received a pay raise in September, and after a little over a year of service he now makes $82,800 annually. Tanner, who has served as director since June, also received a merit increase over the summer, bringing his salary to just under $126,000.
All of the salary ranges for the employees listed above were calculated using monthly salary amounts obtained from the MCCD.
Tanner said the MCCD is also in final stages of moving three employees under the personnel board from the county’s electronics department to MCCD, which is a part of a three-year process to take over communications towers used by first responders that are currently on property owned by Mobile County and the Mobile County Public School System.
According to its budget, the district has also budged $175,000 for legal services and payments in 2015. Larry Wettermark replaced the board’s former attorney, Bill Wasden, during its most recent meeting. Wettermark was previously the attorney for the city of Mobile.