COLLEGE PARK – The College Park City Council voted to increase service fees related to animal control, garbage collection and vehicle immobilizations during its March 12 council meeting.
Those changes – effective July 1 – increase fees associated with the redemption of impounded animals, animal microchipping, garbage reinstatement and immobilized vehicles.
They come after a cost of fee-based services study – which was presented to the council on Jan. 8 – analyzed more than 50 city fees and their associated costs. The ordinance was introduced on Feb. 26.
Fees for the redemption of impounded animals will double from $25 to $50, fees for animal microchipping will increase from $30 to $50, fees for garbage reinstatement will increase from $50 to $75, and vehicle immobilization fees will increase from $35 to $100.
Services that that improve public health and safety, such as trash collection and animal control, typically have low-to-moderate cost recovery levels, according to city documents. The services recommended by the city have some of the lowest cost recovery rates, said Gary Fields, the city’s director of finance.
A recovery rate of less than 100 percent means the city pays more for the cost of providing the services than it collects. The city’s general fund covers the remainder of those service costs.
With the fee increases, the city will still only recover about 32 percent of its animal impounding costs, 30 percent of its microchipping costs, 62 percent of its garbage reinstatement costs and less than seven percent of its vehicle immobilization costs.
The increases will contribute about $10,000 to the cost of providing those services, according to city documents.
John Rigg, a District 3 council member, proposed increasing fees further for vehicle immobilizations, adding that it is unfair for taxpayers to shoulder 93 percent of the cost for those who do not comply.
“I have an appetite for increasing it again in the future if it comes up,” Rigg said. “That’s a lot to put on the other residents of the city for what is sort of chronic rule breaking.”
City Manager Scott Somers said that the fee increases would minimally affect most city residents.
“These are really specific fees that are associated and don’t impact the entire community,” he said.
During a public hearing about the ordinance, some city residents spoke against the proposed fee increases.
Although Oscar Gregory, a District 4 resident, said that he understands the city’s need to “break even,” he argued against the suggested increases for animal control.
“The ongoing onslaught of animal habitats by this obsessive drive to develop is increasing the need to address displaced animal populations moving into our communities because their homes have been destroyed,” Gregory said. “Instead of increasing fees, the council should lower or eliminate existing fees and further add funds to the animal control department.”
Carol Nezzo also questioned the city’s fee increases during the public hearing.
“We want people to live in our neighborhoods, we want them to stay there, and we want to attract people, so why do we chip away?” said Nezzo, a District 3 resident.
Somers assured city residents that the city will continue to offer free microchip programs and clinics and that the fee increase relates to the labor involved with animal control officers coming to a resident’s house to microchip a pet.
“The city has and will continue to do free microchip programs and clinics,” Somers said. “Those will continue. Those are free events.”