(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 9, 2013)
Every two years Ferndale City Council votes on how much to charge for various city services, and the most recent round happened at Monday’s council meeting. Many of the changes in fees happened because of state-mandated fees, and a few fees were simply eliminated. Increases in gas prices also played a role.
Plumbing, mechanical and electrical fees were changed to be in line with state requirements. Plumbing contractors must now pay an annual $35 registration fee. Mechanical contractors must now pay a $45 fee every three years, which went up from $35. Permits per job for plumbing, mechanical, electrical and building have all gone from $35 down to $25 to make it easier for businesses and residents to get work done and to make up for the annual fee.
Michigan also is requiring a fee and a bond for secondhand, junk dealers and pawnshops. The fee for this has gone from $50 to$250 per year, and a $3,000 bond with 2 sureties is required.
Precious metal and gem dealers must also pay a $50 annual fee.
Some fees that have been eliminated include those for garage sales, street vendors and handbills. Garage sales permits were eliminated in 2011, and since that time there have not been any reported complaints about residents over-using garage sales at their homes. Handbill permitting was eliminated in 2012.
Council increased the returned check fee from $30 to $35, in line with what they are charged for a bounced check. But in terms of credit card fees, they decided to hold off. “We’ve moved, finally, online payment to our website and with that brought a conversation about many places do charge a convenience fee for credit cards,” said City Manager April Lynch. “It’s one of those catch-22s. You really want people to use the online services but we’re not sure how much will be used and at what point how much is the city paying for that use of credit cards?”
The dilemma comes in figuring out how much staff time is freed up by having people pay online, compared to how expensive it is for the city to maintain the online payment system. Lynch said that credit card companies vary in how much they charge the city, with a range of fees from 3% to 5%.
Her recommendation was to “create a new line item that tracks transactions and helps us to see how many people are utilizing online payment, and see if we see some traffic decrease at the counter and over the phone.” She added that by gathering data for a year it would help them come up with a fee that realistically covers the cost.
Council members opted to follow Lynch’s advice, but with the realization that the fee issue would likely come up again. “I agree with taking one year, but I think it’s inevitable,” said Councilperson Melanie Piana. “All businesses are dealing with this credit card fee, and how do you cover these costs.”
Other fees that got approved go along with the increased cost of expenses. Sanitation, refuse collection and disposal went up for homeowners, rental properties and commercial properties. For a single family home the cost went from $111 per year to $128. Multifamily units and apartments went from $95 per unit to $110. Commercial, based on per yard, per dumpster, went from $190 to $220. This was discussed at the budget meetings, and is based on the increased cost of transporting the waste.
Another transportation-related fee increase came in the cost of medical transport. The cost per mile has gone up from $9.50 to $12.50.
Most of the 36 page fee schedule remained the same as the previous two years. The entire document is available on the City of Ferndale website, or you can download it from our website by clicking here.
The City of Ferndale recently launched their new website, complete with online bill payments. Here is our article on the launch: http://oaklandcounty115.com/2013/06/25/ferndale-launches-new-website/, and here is the site: http://www.ferndalemi.gov.
For coverage of the City Budget process, read our previous articles: