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Proposed budget includes new fees

April 02, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The City of Hagerstown's proposed budget for fiscal year 2005, made public Wednesday, lists new fees designed to help offset rising city costs. Some of them may affect you.

For instance:

  • If you hire a city police officer to supervise a school dance, it will cost $40 an hour, $3.25 more than last year.

  • If you write a bad check to the city, it's going to cost you $35, $2 more than last year.

  • If you're a non-city employee and park monthly in the city parking deck, you'll pay $47.50, $2.50 more than last year.


The proposed increases touch nearly all city departments, and range from minor adjustments to substantial changes. City Council members contacted Thursday said the increases are likely in line with the city's needs.

There are only two new fees. One is to help pay for a long-standing fire-awareness program for juvenile offenders and their parents. The proposed fee of $150 would be charged only to non-county residents, city Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

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The second is a fee that would pay for requests to the city planning department, Planning Director Kathleen Maher said. Anyone who wants to know what types of uses are permitted on a property must now pay a fee: $25 for a residential customer, and $50 for commercial customers.

City Development Planner Stephen Bockmiller said the department receives about one such request a week, but they're becoming "more and more popular."

Most of the changes were increases to established fees. For instance, it would cost more to park, get copies of documents, plan and build homes and other buildings, play golf, and draw and dispose of water.

In the city's general fund - the portion of the spending plan that covers general administration such as the mayor's office, police, parks and public works - the money coming from licenses and permits and service charges is expected to increase by $354,953, or 12 percent, over the current fiscal year's budget.

Finance Director Alfred Martin said some of that money would come from the proposed increases and some would be a result of more activity in the city departments, such as an increased number of building permits issued due to development.

Trash collection fees are expected to rise later this year due to a contract fee increase, according to the budget, but the expected fees increases were not stated in the budget.

Martin said earlier this week that a 3.5 percent increase to water and sewer customer bills would help pay for new debt, which is being used to upgrade plant facilities.

One fee mentioned in the budget that likely will not change is the administrative fee associated with snow removal for property owners who are in violation of the city code, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said. The fee was reduced from $100 to $25 after a public outcry earlier this year.

"I don't think anyone has a desire to raise that" fee, Tissue said.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said he thinks the budget numbers will continue to look better because of an increased number of new home starts.

"We've got a lot of activity. ... I think we'll be all right," Hendershot said.

Council members Kristin B. Aleshire, Lewis C. Metzner and Carol N. Moller said the rate increases have been ongoing for several years.

Metzner said the increases are in step with their efforts to ensure that "people who use those services should be bearing the brunt" of the costs.

Aleshire said the planning and engineering departments are going to continue to be busy as development increases, and "there is a direct reason why that (type of) fee is being increased."

Moller said she believed the water and sewer rate increases likely were necessary "to cover the cost of doing business. ... Those are things that had to be done."

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