Undecided state budget could affect 911 calls

By Dixie Limbachia

Emergency calls are funded through state taxes. The funds are available but cannot be spent without an approved state budget. As a result, 911 call centers are dipping into their own reserves because they haven’t been paid by the state. This has caused layoffs, leaving fewer people available to answer 911 calls which means longer wait times.

Ralph Caldwell, director of METCAD in Champaign County, said once they pass the budget, the money will be available to be spent on state services.

“They don’t have the appropriations and the abilities to pay the budget,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said there are time constraints related to decisions made surrounding 911 calls. He said some state senators could push the state to take out loans while others might live out of their reserves; other senators have a capital plan to replace equipment. It depends on the dispatch center the financial stability to determine the duration of the budget as it continues on.

The undecided budget affects every dispatch center in Illinois. Champaign County has one dispatch center, and a vast majority of emergency calls are made by students.

Kevin Murphy, freshman in Business, seemed concerned how 911 calls could be affected.

“I understand budget cuts and why we need them, but something like 911 calls — that’s the safety of people,” Murphy said. “Knowing that this is such a big area there so many students and there’s going to crimes like theft and sexual assaults so we’re concerned about our safety if contacting 911 is an issue.”

Lauren Taylor, freshman in LAS, and Allison Wheeler, freshman in LAS, both agreed on the lack of the state legislation to create a budget.

“It’s very irresponsible to let our budget get to a bad place where we even have to concern ourselves with this (911 calls),” Taylor said.

However, Caldwell wanted to emphasis that despite this setback, the state is sitting on a backup plan while waiting for the budget to pass.

“Most likely people won’t see a change in service for next six months to a year while we use our capital budget.”