City of Elkhart looks at new user fees

Board of works looks at new user fees beginning in 2013
Posted on May 16, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — City leaders will consider establishing several new user fees beginning next year.

The new policies could affect groups wanting to hang street banners, host street parties or collect donations at busy intersections in the city.

The proposal to consider new fees was announced by Arvis Dawson, executive assistant to Mayor Dick Moore, and represents the second wave of new revenue generating initiatives introduced by the city in the past few weeks.

Earlier this month, Moore announced several immediate fees and hikes to existing fees after learning tax revenues for the current year and 2013 would be far less than earlier anticipated.

The newest proposal is part of a desire to recoup costs associated with special activities and help prepare the city for what appears to be more budgetary challenges in 2013, Dawson said.

Dawson said a mix of new fees, budget cuts and other efforts have helped shore up the unexpected shortfall for 2012, but the city needs to prepare for further reductions in tax revenues for 2013.

“We’re trying to be ahead of the curve,” Dawson said.

Dawson on Tuesday proposed a committee made up of members of the Board of Public Works look at establishing a handful of new fees. The idea was brought up Tuesday during a meeting of the board of works.

Dawson said establishment of new fees will help the city cover costs for existing services. One example he cited was the overtime expense sometimes incurred by street department workers who set up and remove traffic cones after weekend events.

The committee will consider establishing fees for temporary street closings for special events, noise ordinance exemptions, public gatherings at the downtown Civic Plaza and the hanging of street banners.

A new fee could also be established for not-for-profit groups that want to operate stoplight fundraisers.

Organized activities at the plaza do not require a fee, but the city does seek reimbursement for the cost of electricity.

No specific dollar amounts were mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting.

The ad hoc committee will include members of board of works and will be chaired by Andrew Carter. Suggestions would be presented to the mayor, who would sign off on specifics before the board of works considers any formal proposals, Dawson said.

He said proposals would be developed within the next few months and that the public will have a chance to discuss the issues.

User fees, Dawson said, are a good way to share the cost of services, particularly during tough economic times.

The city would rather generate revenues from user-based fees than seek a hike in property taxes, Dawson said.

Other members of the board of worked sounded open to the idea. “We want to provide services, but somehow we need to pay for the service or stop it,” Carter said.

The board of works recently raised fees at the city’s cemetery.

Rental fees for small hangars at Elkhart Municipal Airport are also being increased.

Other fee proposals that need city council approval include an increase in the building permit fee from $25 to $30; a new $5 fuel surcharge for moving violations such as speeding; a new $10 fee for inspections police do involving wrecked or damaged vehicles and a $30 booking fee for anyone held at the city jail.

The mayor also established a hiring freeze and called for budget cuts and reductions in part-time and seasonal workers.

Among other moves, Dawson said the city will rely on shifting money from the Economic Development Income Tax fund to cover city expenses under the current budget.

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