News Local/State

911 Call Centers Struggle As People Ditch Landlines


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

If you look at your cell phone bill, you will 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, said the chunk of that tax the center receives is not 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.

"We all have to pay more and more, and we’re in a real budget crunch, and we just can’t afford this," Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said. "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. She said other cities and dispatch centers are on board with her plan to raise the tax, but she said she still has to persuade lawmakers.