Houston Officially Raises Fees
by: Laurie Johnson, December 15, 2010 9:12:00 pm
The fees will generate about $21 million annually, although most of that will go back to individual departments and not into the city's general fund.
The ordinance to enact the new fee structure calls for an annual review so that city officials can raise or lower the fees based on the cost of providing services.
This is Houston Councilmember Ann Clutterbuck.
"To me the things for which we charge fees are not basic city services, they are extra that need to happen if I choose to own a dog or have a swimming pool or any number of other things that in my opinion should not be borne on the backs of the ad valorem taxpayers or the sales taxpayers in the City of Houston."
Some of the city's fees haven't been changed in three decades, while others have gone up in the past few years. Mayor Annise Parker says previously the city had no policy for changing fee rates.
"We discovered that this is just another one of those items that had been ignored for years. And there wasn't any consistent method for determining what an appropriate user fee was and very little effort at consistency. So now we have a good platform going forward and we did not completely recover the true cost of service for these user fees, but we got a lot closer."
Three councilmembers, C.O. Bradford, Jolanda Jones and Mike Sullivan, voted against the ordinance.
Bradford told the mayor it is his belief that the city's budget is in a catastrophic situation and piecemeal solutions won't fix the problem.
But Mayor Parker points out things like cost-of-service fees, employee furloughs and departmental cuts are part of the effort to balance the budget.