City Spent on Nickel and Dimeing

Houston City Council agreed today to raise nearly 150 fees for services in the City.  Here are just a few of the increases to come (from Houston Chronicle):

• 1. Valet operator permit: from $1,000 to $1,500
• 2. Fire alarm permit renewal: from $25 to $50
• 3. Burglar alarm permit: from range of $30 to $70 to range of $35 to $100
• 4. Short-term parking at city meters: from range of $0.10 to $1.50 to range of $0.30 to $1.80
• 5. Mobile food vendor license: from $300 to $535
• 6. Swimming pool inspection fee: from $85 to $135
• 7. Storage lot authorization renewal: from $50 to $100
• 8. Auto salesman renewal: from $15 to $60
• 9. Limousine permit: from $400 to $500
10. Annual taxi permit: from $400 to $500

The City of Houston has about a $30 million deficit so they are raising fees that will primarily hurt small businesses the most.  These are the companies that are hurting the worst right now! 

Where did theses numbers even come from?  Andy Icken, the mayor’s chief development officer said “‘we have looked back at what it costs us to provide that service, and we believe each of those customers should not subsidize each other, nor should the general public subsidize these services. We’re trying to make them revenue-neutral to the general public’” (from Houston Chronicle).  If they really looked back at what it costs to provide a service, I see no reason why they would need to increase any licensing or permit fee.  It really costs the City $100 more a year per taxi to make sure they have a permit?  I can’t see how that can be true.  They are REALLY trying to say that it costs $500 more a year to process each valet operator permit?  

A lot of these fees have not been raised in a long time, so it might be possible that some of them need to be increased, but it looks disingenuous to raise a bunch of fees all at once.  They should have looked at each permit category as a whole and made changes to each category as a whole.  These changes could have saved a lot of money, and then they could have tapered down the amount they had to increase.  The City must find cuts rather than increasing fees every year.  $100 more a year for the limousine and taxi companies might not seem like a lot now, but what happens next year when the City needs more money?  How much will they raise the fees then?  Thank you Council Members C.O. Bradford, Mike Sullivan, and Jolanda Jones for voting against this increase.

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