Fee structure fails logic test

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 13, 2010

It was a fix for some businesses but still isn’t the right solution, adding to the city of Ironton’s already questionable fee structure.

Last week, the Ironton City Council voted unanimously to change the way the city’s long-standing fire fee is handled for businesses. The move converted the fee from 90 cents per thousand gallons of water used to a flat $12 per month per business.

Although this move eliminates the problem of some businesses like car washes, doctor’s offices and nursing homes from being penalized, it creates new inequality because it will increase the cost for many businesses and not all are the same.

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Wouldn’t a sliding scale based on square footage make more sense? Should fire protection cost the same for a business that is 20,000 square feet as it does 10,000 feet? Of course not.

All households pay $4.75 a month, in part because homes don’t vary that significantly. But businesses are another story.

This problem is somewhat compounded by the fact that several councilmembers said they wanted to make the fee more fair, while the entire council continues to ignore the fact that the stormwater fee and current reciprocity tax structure do not make sense either.

The stormwater fee, which was implemented to address water runoff going into the city’s stormwater system, is based on water usage. The two really aren’t related at all and again penalizes for water usage rather than addressing the real issue of water runoff.

Reciprocity remains a flawed system because some residents pay twice what their neighbor pays simply because of where they work. If everyone gets the same services, they should pay the same share.

Most Ironton residents and businesses don’t mind doing their part but they do expect the fees to be logical and fair.

That isn’t the case on either count.

The council took a small step but still have a long way to go if they truly care about fairness.