Douglas County to raise several service fees

photo by: Joe Preiner

The Douglas County Courthouse.

The 2019 budget the Douglas County Commission approved this month will require residents to pay more when using Treasurer’s Office satellite sites, securing building or zoning permits or renting a building at the fairgrounds.

The only fee increase that currently has a dollar amount attached to it is the service fee to be added when residents obtain or renew motor vehicle license plates and registration at one of the three satellite offices of the Douglas County Treasurer’s Office. Commissioners approved an increase from $2 to $5, the maximum the state allows, during last month’s budget deliberations. Like the other fee increases commissioners approved with the 2019 budget, the fee increase will go into effect in January 2019.

Douglas County Treasurer Paula Gilchrist said the state allows counties to add the extra fee at satellite offices to help with rent and other associated costs.

“All the state’s five largest counties have satellite offices,” she said. “All the other large counties charge $5. Rental rates are high enough that it costs that much to have the extra buildings.”

Gilchrist said each dollar of the fee amount yielded roughly $36,700 in 2017 from the satellite office in Baldwin City and the two satellite offices in Lawrence — one at the Dillons store at 3000 W. Sixth St., and the other in south Lawrence, at 2000 W. 31st St., Suite B.

The fee increase will raise $183,600 in revenue if residents continue to use the satellite site at the current level, Gilchrist said. However, she said she expected the higher fee would prompt some residents to use the Courthouse office or to make use of the county’s online services.

“I do imagine we will see a slide,” she said. “We saw that when we introduced the $2 fee.”

The exact fee increases for fairgrounds rentals and Douglas County Planning and Zoning services have not been determined, Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said. However, commissioners did set targets of collecting $30,000 more than the $88,000 collected in 2017 from rental fees at the fairgrounds, and to collect another $40,000 in planning and zoning permit fees, she said.

Pinsky said she would start reviewing fairgrounds rental fees in September. At the commissioners’ request, that review would also consider rental rates for youth groups now exempt from fairgrounds rental fees.

The new rental fees would become effective Jan. 1, but Plinsky said she wouldn’t apply the increases to those who have already reserved space at the fairgrounds for next year.

The zoning department charges fees for building and demolition permits, zoning requests and inspections, Plinsky said. The county study of those rates will research the fee structures of nearby counties and consider adding a fee for reviewing plans for new buildings.

“We are looking at a plan review fee,” she said. “That is a common fee in many other counties.”

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