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Impact fees proposed again

Scott Tibbs, August 21st, 2003

Monroe County Council member Scott Wells has proposed a $0.06 per square foot fee to replace existing fees for new development in the county. The fee would raise revenue for the county, placing some of the Planning Commission budget onto an outside fund and reducing the pressure on the cash-strapped county General Fund. Wells proposal would shift monies from the General Fund currently being spent on planning into other areas, such as the Jail. The fee proposal was defeated n a 6-2 vote by the Planning Commission late Tuesday night.

If the fee increase covers only the costs incurred by the Planning Department to deal with development, it may not be a bad idea. It is reasonable that user fees pay for services rendered, rather than all county taxpayers. The fee should not, however, be more than what is necessary to cover these costs. Increasing the fee beyond that point would effectively be a tax increase on developers and their customers, singling them out to help take pressure off the General Fund. If more revenue is needed, it should be spread evenly over all county taxpayers, not just people building a home or business.

County Council member Jeff Ellington's suggestion that other departments implement such fees to cover their costs is a good idea. For example, in Angola, Indiana, the jail charges inmates a fee for staying there to help defer the costs of incarcerating them.

Taxpayers should not expect any reduction in their property taxes from this fee. The money raised would be a tiny percentage of property taxes collected and the County Council will certainly continue to approve the maximum property tax levy increase allowed by the state of Indiana.

Finally, if this fee is to be reconsidered in the future, it should be part of a package of spending cuts, especially to social service agencies. If the County Council is having difficulty paying for the operations of county government, they should not be allowing the County Commissioners to give money to social service agencies.