Sustained Outrage

Metro government: What about the user fee?

Could metro government mean the end of Charleston’s user fee?

Very possibly.

At a July reception, representatives of various governments in Kanawha County had a chance to ask Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson how his community handled various problems when merging city and county governments in 2000.

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard, for example, asked about Charleston’s user fee, a $2 weekly deduction from every paycheck in the city.

If county residents formed a county-wide council, it could easily “vote the user fee out of existence,” Molgaard said.

“You may have to restructure your finances,” Abramson said. “You can let that kill it [metro government], or you can noodle on it a bit.”

The goal, Abramson said, is to identify everyone’s needs and concerns, and then address them. If the rest of the county would not support that fee, then the new government should be designed without it.

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of Charleston’s Metro Government Committee, city council members were told that the fees city residents pay for certain services, such as garbage and fire protection, do not completely cover the costs of those services.

Garbage service, for example, costs $1.6 million more than Charleston residents pay in city refuse fees. The city uses tax money to make up the difference.

That means, if a community next door to Charleston wanted to pay to engage the city’s services, it would not be simply a matter of charging current fees of those new customers.