BIG RAPIDS — The Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch Authority board is considering a surcharge rate increase to Mecosta and Osceola counties.

"A surcharge increase will provide a more stable funding source for Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch 911 operations and continue to improve the technology upgrades necessary to provide our community members with emergency services," Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch Authority Director Megan Erickson said.

According to Erickson, the County 911 Operational Charge or surcharge is the amount assessed as a result of voter action in Mecosta and Osceola counties, as well as Board of Commissioner’s resolution, and is the sole funding source of its operation and capital improvements. Meceola Central Dispatch does not receive any millage from the counties or user fees from any of the agencies it serves.

The current assessed amount collected is $2.25 per phone device per monthly phone bill and has been that way since 2010. The 911 operational charge is collected by the telephone service provider and paid directly to Meceola Central Dispatch. These funds help with salary, benefits, equipment, software, licenses, utilities, supplies and more.

However, because of the rising costs of operations, as well as equipment and technology upgrades, Erickson said funding is becoming unpredictable and a surcharge increase could help with a number of items.

"Due to the continuing decline of landline use, the stabilization of cellular device purchases and new technology, our funding is becoming more unpredictable," Erickson said.

According to Erickson, residents have switched from dependable landline phones to cellular and Voice Over Internet Protocol service, and pay as you go service, or other unassessed technology, none of which the dispatch center receives funds from.

“We are looking at a serious budget deficit,” Mecosta County commissioner Bill Routley said during last week's Big Rapids City Commission meeting.

Routley sits on the Meceola Board of Authority as a city representative appointed by Mecosta County.

According to Routley, a surcharge rate increase to $3 is being discussed by the central dispatch board; however, no official resolution or set cost has been made yet.

A resolution would need to be approved by the central dispatch board before being sent to the Mecosta and Osceola County Board of Commissioners. Should the central dispatch board approve the resolution, the next step would be for the commissioners in both counties to approve the resolution. Should they also approve it, the resolution would then be sent to ballot to be voted on during the August election.

The decision on whether or not to submit a resolution requesting the millage will be decided at the next Meceola Board of Authority meeting Feb. 10.