East Feliciana Parish residents have their work cut out for them concerning the welfare of the parish when voting in the upcoming election. We’ll be selecting a state representative, sheriff, clerk of court and coroner, along with various tax renewals, such as the 911 communications service to East Feliciana.

As chairman of the board of the 911 Commission, I’m asking for residents’ support of the 911 tax renewal, something you’ve already been paying for during the past 10 years. The renewal is asking for an additional 10-year commitment from residents.

My last personal annual bill for the 911 service was $3.46. It’s really not much for what you get in return — the assurance that when you dial 911, someone will answer in under 15 seconds, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and help will be on the way from EMS, fire or police.

This tax renewal is vital to maintaining the operations of our present 911 system. With a budget of over $575,000 annually, the tax renewal brings in about $132,000 or about a quarter of the budget. The other funding sources are fees from the municipalities and Fire District that use our 911 system for dispatching of law enforcement agencies and fire departments.

The Sheriff’s Office carries most of the load, funding nearly 50 percent of the present budget for dispatching services. The remaining 1/4 of the funding comes from the phone companies’ excise tax on landlines and some cellphones. This funding source, however, is steadily diminishing as more and more landlines are being replaced by cellphones.

With the diminishing phone revenue and unpredictable funding sources, the tax renewal is the main source of income for the 911 system to continue providing the best service for East Feliciana Parish residents.

Should the tax proposition not be renewed, well, imagine how any business would be affected if a quarter of its funding was discontinued. There would be layoffs and a decline in service, but rest assured you’ll always be able to dial 911 for help, no matter what happens with the renewal.

With layoffs, two dispatchers could be reduced to one, and instead of answering calls immediately, callers may be asked to hold or get a busy signal! We all know that in an emergency situation, seconds count and could mean the difference between life and death.

All predictions aside, when you vote in the primary election on Oct. 24, I ask you to please consider renewing the 911 tax, which for most residents of East Feliciana, is under $5 annually.

Your vote for the tax renewal will allow for another 10 years of critical emergency response for yourself, your loved ones and your property.

Bill Ford

board chairman, East Feliciana 911 Commission