Our view: Raising city fees makes dollars and sense?
At issue: City of Steamboat Springs poised to raise certain municipal fees
Our view: Raising fees collected by the city of Steamboat Springs to offset costs represents a reasonable approach to diversifying municipal revenues. But imposing those fees this late in the calendar year would be an unnecessary hardship to some businesses and nonprofits.Editorial Board • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher • Lisa Schlichtman, editor • Tom Ross, reporter • Hannah Hoffman, community representative • Bob Schneider, community representative Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.
User fees are nothing new in the city of Steamboat Springs; if you have ever played co-ed softball, you’ve paid a modest fee to cover the cost of the umpires who call the balls and strikes. You probably thought nothing of it.
Less familiar is the fact that if you plan to apply for a liquor license, you pay a $70 fee for the privilege of having your fingerprints taken. And, if you have the misfortune to get into a traffic accident, you are charged a $5 fee for the accident report.
With that in mind, we don’t object in principle to City Manager Gary Suiter’s plan to diversify the city’s revenue stream by raising the cost of a sales tax license from $25 to $50, or the cost of renewing a vacation home rental permit from $50 to $75.
Also on the city manager’s mind is a plan to collect a new $42 per hour fee for special event organizers who require the use of the city’s community service officers to direct traffic. We’ve all appreciated the men and women in yellow and black shirts who help direct traffic at the entrance to the rodeo grounds and free concerts at Howelsen Hill.
We think it is important point out that the same special events that require traffic control also do a great deal to drive city sales-tax collections.
But that isn’t enough to make us want to editorialize against collecting the fees. The city of Steamboat Springs is one of only a handful in Colorado that doesn’t have a municipal property tax. It’s a reality that makes a new fee for the use of community service officers a minor issue.
What we do object to is how late in the year the plan to increase fees is being put forward. Why wasn’t the city manager’s plan to raise fees put before city council at its budget retreat in the fall?
By New Year’s, event organizers have set their budgets and participation fees for their events. It’s too late to raise the cost to participate in a cycling race, attend a concert or exhibit at an outdoor art fair in 2018.
The city manager’s effort to increase user fees to diversify the city’s revenue sources beyond just sales tax makes dollars and sense. But we also think the city should wait to impose those fees until the next budget cycle.
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