by TaLeiza Calloway – firstname.lastname@example.org
The St. Joseph City Council voted, 3-2, Feb. 7 to implement a street-light utility fee despite some reservations by city officials. Council members Steve Frank and Dale Wick voted against the move.
“I just don’t think it was the best option,” Wick said.
Collection of the fee will begin in March. Residents will see an increase of $18 per year, and businesses will see an increase of about $20 per year, St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens said. The utility fee is based on a per-unit system and is not as simple as paying for the light by one’s home, Weyrens told officials.
“It really is systemwide,” Weyrens said of the fee. “It’s an asset. Everyone should pay the same share of the asset.”
Wick said he would have liked to have seen more options on how to distribute the fee. Sue Palmer, vice president of finance and administration for the College of St. Benedict, spoke during a public hearing about the fee Feb. 7. Palmer asked officials to explain the basis for the fee. She said the city should perhaps consider an alternative way of distributing the fee or offer CSB a credit for the lighting costs the college already pays. Under the approved change, the college will pay about $600 per light per year.
Street lighting is generally included in the city’s property-tax levy, but in December 2012 officials voted to remove it and institute a street-light utility fee. By pulling the street-lighting expense from the levy, instead of residents and businesses paying taxes to the county for street lighting, they will pay the city directly every two months, staff said previously.