Danville asks state auditor to look at Boyle’s 911 funds

Danville’s city manager has asked Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon to audit the 911-earmarked funds being held by the Boyle County Fiscal Court.

In a letter sent to Harmon on Aug. 11, City Manager Ron Scott states that Boyle County has “no legal basis” for withholding the funds from Danville, which owns and operates the local 911 call center. Scott’s letter asks Harmon to “conduct an immediate audit of all (911 funds) that are held by Boyle County for the benefit of the Danville-Boyle County E911 (call center).”

Danville has had “lengthy discussions over a prolonged period of time” of about six years with Boyle County, attempting to reach an interlocal agreement on 911, Scott said Monday at a Danville City Commission meeting.

“Those efforts — while discussions were cordial, I would say the outcome was not productive,” Scott said.

The letter asks Harmon to audit two kinds of 911 funds currently held by Boyle County: local fees collected on landline telephones through a county ordinance; and cell-phone fees collected by the state and distributed to Boyle County.

Scott’s letter argues that state law requires 911 cell-phone fees to be distributed directly to the public-safety answering point (PSAP), a technical term for Danville’s 911 call center. The funds are currently distributed quarterly to Boyle County — something Scott says is not allowable under the law.

“We have had discussions with the prior and current (cell-phone) 911 board administrators on this point, neither of which have provided direction on this issue, nor changed the current manner of distribution of state-shared (cell phone) funds,” Scott wrote. “In February 2017, we requested an opinion from the attorney general on this issue, and to date have not received a reply. As a consequence, Boyle County has continued to receive state-shared (cell-phone) funds and may currently hold approximately $750,000 in total, representing both (cell-phone) funds and retained local landline-based telephone taxes.”

Scott writes that Boyle County “has a long history and practice of holding” 911 funds “until it elects to transfer funds in an amount sufficient in its judgment to the City of Danville to support our (911 call center).”

“In the opinion of Danville city officials, this history and practice of Boyle County long holding funds designated for the certified PSAP impedes the operational efficiency of our E911 PSAP and is counter to the intent of law and regulation,” Scott writes.

Scott later writes that Boyle County is “refusing to transfer” 911 funds and “is considering withdrawing from the current arrangement and the possibility of using the funds held … to meet the costs of another future arrangement.”

Scott alleges a letter from Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney sent on July 27 “suggests that current restricted funds … might be utilized by Boyle County in another manner if it should elect to have dispatch services provided by (a different PSAP).”

Boyle County officials have been looking into the possibility of splitting the rest of the county away from Danville’s 911 center and having 911 calls outside Danville city limits handled by Bluegrass 911 in Garrard County.

McKinney’s letter, which Scott attached to his letter to Harmon, was a response to an earlier letter sent from Scott, asking the county to turn over its 911 funds to Danville.

“The issue that has of course brought all this to a head is whether Boyle County wants their first responders to be dispatched by the City of Danville,” McKinney wrote. “That raises the question of who has the rights to the reserve account and who has the rights to any future money collected.

“… As to the first issue: We continue to explore the possibility of our first responders being dispatched by Bluegrass 911. We think there are a lot of advantages which include both financial and service advantages. As to the second issue: We will continue to sort out what funds are available for whom as well as who has right to the funds going forward as agreed upon by an inter-local agreement which we need to negotiate.”

In Scott’s letter, the city manager wrote that it’s clear “opinions differ on these issues,” which is why an “official determination” from the auditor is necessary.

“Our unequivocal view is that it is undisputed that those (cell-phone) funds and local telephone taxes that are currently held by Boyle County officials are restricted by state law to be used for the exclusive benefit of the existing E911 PSAP that now serves all people living in Boyle County,” the letter reads. “There is no legal basis for Boyle County to receive the (cell-phone) funds, nor continue its historical practice of holding these tax funds.”