Like local property taxes, Lawrence residents will be paying the bulk of the new fees being proposed by the city staff, but at least those fees will be paid by the people who actually use the services they will help fund.
Parks and recreation officials seem to be zeroing in on a sane approach to increased fees. The two new fees they are recommending are $1 per child at the South Park Wading Pool and $1 for adults and 50 cents for children 5 to 12 at the Prairie Park Nature Center, with an optional $40 annual family pass for frequent visitors. Neither of those fees should cause an undue hardship for local residents using those facilities.
They won’t recommend increased fees for the city’s aquatic centers, which are high enough already to discourage some families. They also won’t add fees to use the city’s recreation centers, meaning those facilities still will be available to local youngsters at no charge. After determining that the suggested fees to use weight and cardio rooms in local recreation centers probably wouldn’t cover the cost of the key card system needed to enforce the fee, they wisely dropped that idea.
Seeking donations or sponsors to offset the cost of summer band concerts is a good idea, and selling advertising at some ballparks and other facilities is fine — within reason.
Parking fees and fines also are likely to go up, along with some traffic fines. At $3 a pop, parking tickets still would be far below average. Enforcing meters until 6 p.m., instead of the current 5 p.m., shouldn’t be a problem. Cutting the maximum time on Massachusetts Street meters from two hours to 90 minutes doesn’t make much sense. It only encourages people to leave downtown sooner — or simply shop elsewhere in the first place — without providing any additional revenue.
Charging people slightly more for speeding tickets and other traffic offenses is fair. Maybe the higher fines will be more of a deterrent for would-be offenders. If not, the city will happily take their money.
Tight economic times have prompted city officials to get a little more creative in the ways they fund city services. Raising fines and charging additional fees may not be a popular move, but because these essentially are user fees for city services, including municipal court, they are a fairer way to collect funds than to simply raise general tax levies.