Municipal taxes: council discusses exemptions | Local News


Last fall, the city adopted a new fee schedule for its services and facilities based on feedback from a consulting firm hired to update the fees. At that time, the board directed staff to go one step further and prepare a fee waiver policy to accompany the updated fee.

When council first reviewed the fee plan, City Councilor David Spelich said, “I think we are giving too much and we should increase the fees and legitimately collect what is owed to us.”

He specifically requested that a policy be developed on fee waivers.

At the September 7 regular council session, Community Services Director Rachael Goodwin presented her first concept for the new policy, and it looks like it will be the subject of much council discussion before its possible adoption.

At last week’s meeting, Spelich called for a “fair and just policy with no one getting a free ride.”

Goodwin said as they prepared the plan, staff noted three categories of fee exemptions related to community services. These include special events, use of the community center, and sports groups / activities.

“Each of them faces distinct challenges, as there is no comprehensive policy on when, where and who can benefit from fee waivers,” Goodwin said. “There is also limited documentation regarding the extent of exemptions and inconsistent application of existing policy.

“Staff began to make suggestions and recommendations on how this new policy might take shape.

When developing a new policy, Goodwin said she would like to move away from using full cost exemptions and only consider fee discounts of up to 50%. It also proposes eligibility criteria for any type of fee exemption. These include:

* Must be a Fountain Hills non-profit group.

* Must not be a fundraiser or have a revenue component for the event, such as sales fees or ticket sales.

Anyone who does not meet these criteria will be charged nonprofit rental rates according to the current fee schedule.

Staff had prepared a report on fees paid and waived in fiscal 2019. This study showed the city waived a total of over $ 200,000 in group and event setup fees.

There were a total of 29 special events for the year and all paid fees except for three high school events which are covered by an intergovernmental agreement between the City and the District. The Heritage designation established about five years ago for certain special events has become obsolete and will be phased out. For the 29 events held that year, the city raised approximately $ 21,000 in fees and waived $ 133,743 on the fee schedule. These are the only fees collected in 2019 for any of the three categories in which the fees are collected.

For events at the community center, the city waived 21,233 fees. Five events were covered under the IGA with the school district and four were city sponsored activities.

The Fountain Hills Civic and Cultural Association and 13 affiliated groups paid no fees for the use of the community center, which represents $ 10,157 in waivers. There were three city sponsored activities in this group and a number of group and board meetings using the community center rooms.

Groups such as Sister Cities, FH Crisis Response Team, Kiwanis Blood Drives, and the Mayor’s State of the City Speech were not charged.

In parks and sports fields, Little League, Youth Soccer Club, Boys & Girls Club and the school district have paid no fees for sports fields. Boys & Girls Club has a professional services agreement with the city which needs to be updated, and the use of schools is covered by the district IGA with the city.

The waiver report does not show any other waived fees for various tournaments and group games using the grounds and parks.

Goodwin made it clear in his remarks that the city never used fees as a source of revenue, only to defray the costs of these events and activities. The updated fee schedule adopted for the year has corrected many of the inconsistencies between actual costs and fees and adjustments have been made to both to achieve the best balance.

Staff have listened to board input and the waiver policy remains a work in progress with no schedule scheduled for further discussion by the board.

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