Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ballard Adminstration Proposes Hefty Tax, er, Use Fee Increases

The Indianapolis Star this morning reports on Ballard administration's plan to greatly increase taxes, er user fees, on businesses.

The new year could bring similar fee increases to a wide array of licenses, affecting street vendors, nude models, pawn brokers and builders, as well as homeowners who want to install a water heater or throw a block party.

It is part of Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to change the way such licenses are funded.

Instead of subsidizing inspections with tax dollars, he wants to shift the cost to those who receive the service. The proposed hikes, which still must be approved by the City-County Council, would affect 27 types of businesses licensed by the city. Ballard also wants the city's zoning and building inspection services to be fee-based, rather than subsidized by property taxes, said Mike Peoni, administrator of the Division of Planning.

The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce said it supports the mayor's approach to pay for city services with user fees when possible, but its members are objecting to the size of the hikes the city says are needed.

"I haven't heard anyone supportive of it," said Jean Farison, manager of business advocacy for the Chamber. "We need to be encouraging our businesses to grow, not adding new user fees or taxes. By increasing fees . . . what kind of message does that send about Marion County?"

Others, including Gonzalez-Piriz, executive vice president of Indianapolis Yellow Cab, say the fees could have unforeseen consequences. He predicted the higher fees on taxis and drivers would result in more unlicensed and uninspected cabs on city streets.


Later in the article, the Star lists the proposed fee hikes:

Taxicabs: $100 to $471.

Taxicab drivers: $20 to $283.

Sidewalk cafes: $169 to $591.

Pet shops and kennels: $25 to $559.

Trash haulers: $20 to $479.

Hotels: $20 to $603.

Pay telephones: $52 to $114.

Transient merchants: $20 to $213.

Massage parlors: $250 to $559.

Massage therapists, escorts and nude models: $25 to $92.

Installation of new water heater in home or business: $25 to $153 (if venting or fuel type is changed).

Scrap dealers: $200 to $823.

Vendor cart renewals: $100 to $273.

Block parties or other special events with a street closing: $25 to $113-$683 (higher fee for events with multiple street closures, food, entertainment and security.)

Horse-drawn carriages: $20 to $77.

General construction inspections: $40-$50 to $107.

Zoning variance to change permitted use of homes: $200 to $579.

Zoning variance of use for a business: $900 to $1,999.

Pay parking garages: $20 to $475
The proposed fee increases will have to pass the City-County Council. Will this be yet another issue where the Ballard administration asks Council Republicans to fall on the sword for tax increases, just like what happened with the CIB? You can bet on it. However, given the continued erosion of support for Mayor Ballard among Republican council members, he's unlikely to be as successful in convincing Republicans to vote as a block for tax increases as he was for the CIB proposal.

The irony of this proposal? Just a few months ago, the head of the City's telecom agency Rick Maultra lost his battle to make telecoms doing business in Indianapolis pay rights-of-way fees like they do in other cities. AT&T, working through its lobbyist Joe Loftus, who is also lobbyist for the Ballard administration and partner at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, worked behind the scenes to get funding eliminated from the budget for Maultra's position, putting him out of work.

I seem to recall then head of City Legal and now Chief of Staff Chris Cotterill, arguing to Council members (undoubtedly on behalf of AT&T and the person who hired him, Loftus) that rights of way fees should not be imposed because telecoms would simply pass along those fees to consumers. Now Cotterill presumably is going to be spear-heading the effort to raise the very type of business taxes he claimed to be opposed to for physical reasons just a few months ago.

Last Republican still supporting Mayor Ballard, please turn out the lights.

UPDATE: Actually the Indianapolis Times Terry Burns reported this story first. What I haven't seen, or missed, is who on the council is willing to sponsor this proposal.


Downtown Indy said...

I just don't understand why this city repeatedly does this. Fees, rates and taxes are always held to the same level for years - decades - until one day somebody announces a huge, sudden increase.

Instead of gradually rising so people can deal with incremental changes that can be budgeted, they get slammed with big jumps that leave them wondering how to cover the cost.

Cato said...

Simple rule: never vote Republican.

We'd be better off with Bart and his people.

Terry Burns said...

If I'm not mistaken, I first read about this in the Indianapolis Times on Tuesday.

M Theory said... that measurement one should never vote Democrat either.

They are both filthy.

These people are sociopaths. Look up the traits of a sociopath.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Terry, I hadn't seen your blog in a couple days. You are indeed correct. Sorry I didn't give you credit. I'll fix that. I hate it when the papers read the blogs and then report on what they said, without giving credit.

P.S. Please don't give up on calling me a "Wingnut." That's my personal favorite. I want to get t-shirts made up.

Paul K. Ogden said...


You're exactly right. If you read closely what the D's say they generally just criticize the Ballard administration hypocrisy of asking for higher fees, assessments. They rarely criticize raising taxes/fees.

Terry Burns said...


You are my favorite wingnut. Happy Holidays.

M Theory said...

You should get angel wings on the back of the Wingnut shirts.

Downtown Indy said...

Has anybody yet found the story that says, 'but even with the increase, these fees would be much lower than in other major metro areas?'

That's the universal justification we normally are fed.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Haven't found that. I don know one thing...come election time the public will not care. A tax increase is a tax increase is a tax increase.

Don't think for a second that the D's aren't having a good old time watching Ballard set them up for a sweep in the 2011 election.

Citizen Kane said...

The zoning fees have already been approved. They will be effective 2-1-10.

The general idea of increasing fees for the Office of Code Enforcement has been known by the Council since the spring/summer. Jackie Nytes sponsored its creation, so I would assume she would be sponsor the fee increases.

Sean Shepard said...

A lot of these licensing "fees" and the administration of such should just be done away with.

If there are legitimate expenses associated with needing extra security or closing off a street or something, then those requiring such should pay. And that should include the Pacers and Colts (who I believe in at least one case are contractually protected have from having to cover the cost of additional police presence).

Let's quit giving freebies to billionaires with hobby sports franchises that would be bleeding massive gobs of money if they couldn't leverage the machinery of government to steal on their behalf.

Why not get rid of the $5 million payoffs to local community organizations under the guise of crime protection grants?

How about we quit transferring a million bucks a year of taxpayer money to private organizations that attach an "arts" label to their efforts.

Citizen Kane said...

Unfortunately, Sean, government officials get their power from the redistribution of stolen funds, with the leftovers occasionally used to provide public services.