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County fee hike on the way

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted on Tuesday to increase development and utility permitting fees. The move updated a suite of fees that had individually been established from 2004 to 2013. According to staff, the increases are necessary to recover costs related to rising demand for the permits and the services required to process them. Each fee increase will be adjusted for inflation, meaning that older fees stand to increase by more than 25 percent. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he would prefer to adjust the fees every three years in order to avoid dramatic increases. “I mean, we know that we’re getting out of kilter a little bit if we don’t watch it,” said Daugherty. Commissioner Brigid Shea worried that at an estimated recovery rate of 80 to 85 percent, taxpayers are picking up the tab for certain state-mandated reviews. “I don’t think we should be asking the public to subsidize those unduly,” said Shea. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt concurred, saying that the fees need to be “recalibrated” in order to have the lightest possible impact on the property tax rate. “But also, as we look at these fees, we’re remaining cognizant that fees should only apply to those who are receiving a benefit from the service, that it should not exceed the cost of the service and therefore become a backdoor tax, and that it shouldn’t have a punitive effect,” Eckhardt added. After her remarks, the court voted 4-0 to approve the fee hikes. Commissioner Ron Davis was absent.

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