August 18, 2009

City plans regular fee updates

The city plans to make sure the fees it charges for permits and services are updated regularly.
A new law enacted by the City Council recently requires officials to review each fee charged at least every three years to make sure it’s adequate.
City Councilor Craig Minor, who heads the ordinance committee, said that neglecting to keep fees current sometimes lead to “rather dramatic” hikes that can seem out of touch.
The move will likely lead to slightly higher revenue for the city, but it’s mostly aimed at eliminating the furor that can arise when residents get socked for a massive increase all at once.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that he began pushing for the policy change after hearing from many residents angry at a 55 percent increase in the tab for participation in the yard waste program.
He said many people dropped the voluntary service when they saw their bill rise so sharply last year.
Rimcoski said the city would be far better off by checking on fees “on a year-to-year basis” so they can be increased slowly rather than holding steady for a long time and then suddenly shooting upward.
The city charges a wide range of fees, for everything from building permits to summer recreation charges. Taken together, they amount to millions of dollars in badly needed revenue for city coffers.
Because the city’s structure requires fee hikes to gain at least the support of oversight boards for most departments, it’s not unusual for fees to remain stagnant for long periods of time before they are increased.
Parking fines, for example, were recently doubled after many years without change.
By putting the requirement that fees are reviewed into the law, officials hope the issue won’t linger on the back burner so often. It should spur more frequent but smaller fee increases, they said.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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