Cash-strapped residents in one California town may soon think twice before calling 911.
Folsom, California's fire department will begin to sort out its budgetary problems by charging $225 for callers who require medical help, the Folsom Telegraph reports. The city council adopted the plan on June 26.
Local Fire Chief Ron Phillips told CBS Sacramento that the charge is necessary for the fire department to continue providing its services to Folsom residents.
But some Folsom residents believe that the charge will discourage people from calling 911 and Phillips says not calling 911 would be a serious mistake.
"They’re constantly weighing out whether they should call 911,” he told the CBS affiliate. “And we really encourage people to call 911. Don’t let that weight into this discussion.”
Folsom's fire department is just one of many around the country that have begun charging emergency callers for their services in the face of budget woes. Cities in 26 states now permit their emergency responders to charge response fees, NPR reports. New York City faced public scrutiny last year when officials announced that emergency responders would be permitted to charge as much as $2,500 for emergency response and road cleanup.
In New Castle, Indiana, one couple was charged $28,000 by their fire department after emergency responders put out a fire which engulfed the couple's home, ABC News reports.
The fees are known as a 'crash tax' or 'accident tax', according to ABC News. Some of the charges that are a part of crash taxes can be passed on to an insurance company. But insurance companies can sometimes be slow to pay for bills they see as overly inflated and often pass some of the cost onto the individual filing the claim.
As it turns out, crash taxes may not be worth the bother for cities struggling to close budget gaps. New York City's experiment with crash taxes turned out to be somewhat of a bust; the city only collected $14,000 from such fees, far short of the $100,000 officials had anticipated. This doesn't bode well for Folsom's Fire Department, which is hoping that the new fees will bring in as much $250,000 over the next fiscal year, reports The Folsom Telegraph.