Commentary

How cities nickel and dime their residents

A recent article in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch was quite revealing about the high cost of urban living. Columbus is one of those rare Midwestern cities that has been growing. Apparently, so has the number and amount of the fees it charges its residents. Want to have a block party? That’ll be $40 to close the street. Want to have a bonfire? Fork over $50 for the Bureau of Fire Prevention inspection. Building a deck in the backyard will cost $75 for a permit. But don’t worry. Businesses are the ones that really get taken to the cleaners. A cable TV company will have to pay $75,000 for their license or 5% of their income. Columbus even charges you if your going oiut of business–$30 or 0.3% of the value of your inventory. Overall, fees levied by city hall generated $70 million in 2007. Fines levied against people that didn’t pay them brought in another $21 million.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.