Senate defunds, then re-funds law enforcement radio system during budget negotiations

Bizar Male

The deadline for the current SLERS contract is looming.

The Senate has added back in a budget line item for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System.

The move became apparent during a budget conference meeting Saturday.

SLERS is a unified digital radio network used by state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies throughout the state.

The system has needed a revamp for at least three years but a contract has yet to be finalized.

Previously the Senate’s proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget showed the removal of money to fund that system. The current year budget set aside about $21.6 million for SLERS contract payments.

Sen. Ben Albritton, who chairs a budget conference committee, echoed previous statements made by Senate President Wilton Simpson that the line item was removed so the state wouldn’t show its cards as the Department of Management Services (DMS) negotiated with outside vendors to take over the contract.

“In the state’s best interest, and in looking out for the taxpayers of the state, we felt like that we needed to work on that pricing,” Albritton explained.

The line item is back in the Senate budget, which is now listed at $19 million. The House has budgeted $17.4 million for SLERS.

The SLERS contract is estimated to be worth around $18 million a year. The balance of the collections goes to DMS to fund support staff to run the system.

But as the June 30, 2021 end date for the current contract looms, there is still no contract for a new vendor to upgrade the vital radio system. The budget line item was added back “in anticipation” of a contract.

Despite the omittance of the line item in the Senate’s budget, funding for the system has been likely to continue all along. Senate Bill 2510, which authorizes the mechanism that funds the program, passed both chambers last week.

SLERS is funded through a $3 fee added to traffic tickets.

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