City of Kamloops funding for 911 dispatch services has declined in recent years, due to a societal shift away from landlines and toward cellphones.
Landline users in Kamloops pay 75 cents per month for 911 services, which funds a contract with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Kamloops Fire Rescue dispatch.
City of Kamloops community services director Byron McCorkell said the levy is the city’s only mechanism to recover 911 costs. With fewer landlines, costs are increasingly covered through taxation.
According to the city, revenues have been declining since 2015 and are expected to continue dropping in coming years. In 2015, the levy brought in $327,000. In 2021, it is anticipated to drop to $180,000.
Kamloops Fire Rescue proposed increasing the levy, which has not risen in two decades, bringing the monthly fee to $1.25, or an extra $6 annually to landline users. The city estimated the increase, if applied mid-year, would bring in an additional $66,000 in 2021, amounting to $246,000.
The request was declined, however, when presented to city council on Tuesday (Feb. 9) during budget deliberations.
Coun. Denis Walsh said that, with the bulk of landline users likely seniors, it is unfair to increase the levies and could be an issue of discrimination.
Coun. Dale Bass added that lower-income residents are also more likely to have landlines, as opposed to cellphones. Coun. Arjun Singh said the issue is provincewide, with work underway by the Union of BC Municipalities to add levies to cellphone bills.
The motion to defeat the increase carried unanimously, by a vote of 9-0. The city will increase taxation, slightly, in order to offset the lost revenue.