Rep. Lynn Findley meets with County Court members

Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, visits with members of the Malheur County Court on  about what he expects to see during the upcoming session for the Oregon Legislature in this Jan. 9 photo.

SALEM — Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, received support from across the state for House Bill 2449, which he co-sponsored. The bill aims to increase funding for the Oregon’s 911 program during testimony before the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness on Tuesday.

The bill, for which Findley is the lead sponsor, would increase the state’s 911 tax from 75 cents per wireless and wireline service to $1.50.

In his leadoff testimony before the committee, Findley said the tax has not been raised for 24 years. In Malheur County, the 911/dispatch center is funded 30 percent by the tax on telecommunications and 70 percent by the county budget. That is about the same in every county in the state, he said.

It is difficult to support a 911 center at the current funding level, Findley said, noting the level of county support in some cases could fund some deputies.

Nick Green, John Day City Manager, commenting from John Day by video, said the 911 center there is severely understaffed and support takes about one quarter of his General Fund budget.

Harney County Judge Pete Runnels said the annual contribution from his budget to the center in that county, is about $200,000.

“This hearing was a great collaborative effort on the part of the League of Oregon Cities, Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Sheriffs Association, the Chiefs of Police Association, various fire districts and emergency communications agencies and other local governances,” said Findley in a news release.

He echoed the remarks of a Jefferson County official, testifying at the hearing, who said Oregon now has the lowest tax rate for 911 services in the country and if the increase is approved would have third-lowest tax rate.

“The increase in funding would go towards in technology updates for public safety answering points, additional staffing, call-back capabilities and increased, amber alter services,” Findley stated.

No further sessions are scheduled at this time.

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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