AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Amarillo residents could see fee increases for several city services as early as this fall.
In preparation for a new city budget, the city council agreed Tuesday evening to look into how fee increases could help Amarillo's finances.
Fees are what residents and business owners pay outside of sales and property taxes for certain city services, like bus fares, adult sport league fees, and special events at the zoo.
Right now, fees make up 5.27% of the city's overall budget.
"You're not going to see a significant amount of change in the percentage, it's just not practical," said Deputy City Manager Bob Cowell, who gave the fees presentation at Tuesday's city council meeting. "We're not trying to collect fees beyond the recovery of costs, and so you're never going to see that number change dramatically."
But certain fee increases are a real possibility that Cowell said could make a difference.
Property taxes alone do not bring in enough money to cover the costs of vital services like police and fire.
"Oh I think some people won't like it," said Council Member Mark Nair. "But overall it's the utility value of what we're providing, which is services. If we keep flat and don't do anything, we're always at the vagary of sales tax. That means next year if sales tax declines, we're going to have to cut a lot of things and we have to plan for that future, and that's what this whole conversation is about."
Some fees, like bus fares and animal reclaim fees, will never see an increase because of the negative affect those would create for the city.
But there are some services that don't currently have a fee where the council could look into implementing one, like inspection fees for construction projects and restaurants.
"Here we have adults playing softball, and we make sure we have fees to cover all their expenses, and yet when it comes time for the city to conduct inspections of infrastructures, we don't collect any fees," said Cowell. "That's just kind of the disconnect that we're really wanting to talk about more as we develop the budget."
No changes were voted on, and the city will soon seek public input before taking any action affecting fees.
Major budget plan proposals were originally expected to be presented to the city council in May, but those plans have been pushed back to July or August to take the summer to get input on the various change options.
If any fees are increased, decreased, added or take away, those changes would not go into affect until October at the earliest.