Increased fees for services across the city could be a result of the budget Mayor John Street proposed last week, potentially burning holes in the pockets of Philadelphia residents, including students.
The fees apply mainly to services such as purchasing personal firearms, digging ditches in city streets, violating trash laws, renting DVDs from public libraries and using emergency medical service, along with an application fee for potential city employees.
However, there is also a proposed rate increase for the water department. In conjunction with rising gas prices across the state, students could see much higher rent levels.
The fee increases will become law if the City Council passes the mayor's budget.
Councilman James Kenney said he was skeptical that the body would be able to veto the budget. There are "11 members of this body that [Street] controls," and only nine must affirm the budget in order for it to pass, he said.
The Mayor's Office justified the fees as both necessary and fair.
"In many cases, these fees have stayed the same for 10 or 20 years," Street spokeswoman Christine Ottow said.
"We really just didn't do a good enough job of keeping them up to date," City Budget Director Rob Dubow said.
Dubow said that the alternative to fees is to spread the cost of providing these services across the whole tax base. The fees allow the city to charge only the people who use the specific services, Ottow said.
Though some City Council members also feel the fees are fair, at least several voiced their objections to Street's most recent efforts to ameliorate the city's fiscal difficulties.
Councilman Frank Rizzo said that the mayor should seek to "work smart" and "buy smart" before increasing fees in the city.
"I don't see procurement methods" operating as efficiently as possible, he said, adding that departments throughout the city should buy supplies together as often as possible.
Kenney called the increased fees on DVDs at the Philadelphia public libraries and the proposed $35 application fee for civil service employees "ridiculous."
Together, they would raise the city $4 million dollars out of a budget deficit exceeding $225 million.
Kenney said the mayor had "spent us into this debt" by accelerating spending in a bad economy.
Councilman Juan Ramos agreed that "the library and the application for employment fees stink."
Ramos argued that decreasing accessibility to library resources and increasing the barriers to employment are bad for the city.
"I don't know who can afford a $35 application fee unless you are a highly skilled worker," he said. "It's not like [these fees] are going to reduce the deficit."
Still, Ramos said he thought that Street was "very responsible with his presentation of the budget" and realistic with reference to the city's budget deficit.
"We'll see where the budget process takes us," he said. "We all keep the interest of the city of Philadelphia first."Comments powered by Disqus
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