INDIANAPOLIS -- The Marion County Sheriff's 911 Center is losing dispatchers at an alarming rate. With each seat unfilled, the time it takes to answer a 911 call is getting longer.
The 911 center is the busiest in the state. In 2017, they answered over 1.7 million calls.
"We have a huge turnover rate right now. A lot of it is due to the salaries frankly," said Maj. Mike Hubbs.
The starting pay for a dispatcher in Marion County is lower than most, Call 6 Investigates found after looking at dispatcher salaries from around the state. It's a little over $31,000 per year, according to a job post on the city-county’s website.
That's about $5,000 less than Hamilton County’s base pay, where dispatchers make a minimum of $36,000 per year.
In Hendricks County, dispatchers make a base pay of almost $41,000. $10,000 more than in Marion County.
In Hancock County, dispatchers make a little over $42,500. $11,000 more than Marion County’s dispatchers.
Hubbs started off as a dispatcher in the center in 1996 when he was 18 years old. Now, 22 years later, he says the starting salary is only about five to six thousand more. “That takes your breath away," he said.
Even when compared to other city-county government employees, dispatchers are on the low end of the pay spectrum, according to city-county records.
Indianapolis' Department of Public Works trash collection drivers make about $43,500.
Indianapolis' city-county vehicle technicians make an average of $45,000.
A patrol officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department makes an average of $72,000.
With such a low pay, Hubbs says he has a hard time keeping dispatchers and that has a direct effect on how quickly 911 calls are answered.
“The call volume is such, where if I don't have every seat filled in I'm not maximizing the capability of the center, our technology, it's going to result in someone waiting. That could be life or death," said Hubbs.
Call 6 Investigates dug through city-county records and found that while the Marion County Sheriff’s Office controls the budget for the 911 center, the Mayor’s Office is responsible for setting the yearly budget, which is then finalized by the City-County Council.
City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson says the low salaries of Marion County dispatchers are extremely concerning.
“It's a serious issue. I myself have called 9-1-1 and had the recording that says we're answering other calls right now and that is a problem," said Adamson
Adamson went onto say the issue at hand is much larger and affects the whole city.
"Our clerks are underpaid, our dispatchers are underpaid, our solid waste workers are underpaid. everyone is underpaid. the problem is revenue. But we can't pay people with what we don't have, so garnering more revenue is going to be the challenge for us," said Adamson.