Budget relief proposed for Austin’s 911 call center

She walked caller through safe delivery
She walked caller through safe delivery

Austin (KXAN) – After several budget cycles absent of significant increases, but during a time where call volume and response times continued to increase, the Austin Police 911 call center is getting long-awaited funding in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget.

City budget staff explained the investment this way in the first volume of the massive funding document: ‘During the FY 2014‐15 budget development process APD identified $2.9 million in cost savings within the existing budget, and will repurpose the funding to address workload challenges and enhance customer service provision.’

That means if Council approves the plan this fall, the 911 center will add 38 new civilian positions to the Operations Support Program.

These positions include:

  • 21 new 911 call center staff—8 dispatchers, 9 call takers
  • 4 support positions

Additionally, funding is repurposed to provide a communications training stipend program for the communications
center staff, recognizing the workload and time commitment required to train new call takers.

The budget document breaks down the spending plan by proposing a Communications Division funding increase of more than $1.5 million over last fiscal year. Total full time equivalent positions would go from 191.75 to 214.75.

This at a time when the budget also shows the 911 center is expected to receive 939,659 calls this year, up from last year’s 737,524.

Dispatch times for urgent calls are predicted to be up 10 seconds, from 43 to 53, this fiscal year. And total police response time for emergency and urgent calls is expected to be 7 minutes, 30 seconds, down one second from last year.

The additional staff for the 911 center were slotted as ‘Unmet Needs’ in public presentations by police executives. That drew the ire of Public Safety Commissioners who said  they had been waiting or up-staffing of the 911 center for years.

Last winter, KXAN first revealed cutbacks to overtime allowed for 911 call takers.The controversial plan led to longer call wait times including during the morning of the Oct 31st floods in Southeast Austin.

More help for forensics

The Police Department is also proposing funding 15 positions for the Department’s forensics lab, which received new funding last budget year as well as two administrative positions to assist in managing the open records backlog.

Earlier in July, KXAN reported on the impact of the Michael Morton Act in increasing the number of 911 audio recording requests from local DA’s and County Court Offices.

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