Dallas Brainstorms Fee for Use of City Streets

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Monday, Jun 14, 2010  |  Updated 7:37 PM CDT
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Paying to Use City Streets?

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Dallas is considering a fee for commercial property owners to use city streets.

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Paying to Use City Streets?

Instead of more taxes, the Dallas city council is considering a "transportation user fee" that would charge property owners to use city streets.
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A new fee proposed to help solve the Dallas' expected budget shortfall would charge commercial property owners for using city streets.

The transportation user fee has been a part of the Austin city budget since 1991. The state capitol also charges the fee on residential properties.

Bringing the fee to Dallas is one of several ideas that made it to a second round of budget “brainstorming” at a City Hall workshop Wednesday.

“I think all of these ideas are ideas that we as the council need to consider,” Councilman Dave Neumann said. “I think we’re in a tight spot. None of us want to cut services.”

The city is projecting a $130 million shortfall for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Cuts offered as possibilities include shrinking the police force, furloughs for police officers and firefighters, closing pools and slashing city library hours.

Several council members have suggested a property-tax rate hike to reduce cuts, while others want to avoid a tax hike.

“We’ve committed to the citizens of Dallas that we’re going to look under every rock, every rock, to make sure that we do not have a tax increase,” Councilman Jerry Allen said.

But Allen did not rule out raising the tax rate as part of an overall budget solution.

“If we do, we want to make sure that we’ve looked under every rock,” he said.

Businessman Roland Dickey said the transportation fee would amount to a tax increase on the commercial property his barbecue restaurant chain owns.

“Where I come from in East Dallas, a user fee is a tax,” he said. “They’re charging tons of ad valorem taxes now they can use to fix the streets, in my opinion, not a new tax.”

Dallas resident Patty Britton said the fee might be a way to reverse Dallas street repair declines if residents could be sure the money would be used for that purpose.

“The roads aren’t being fixed. How come?” Britton said. “We’re paying taxes to have that done. So if it will actually go to what it says it’s going to go to, I could probably support something like that."

Dallas officials said Fort Worth is also considering a transportation user fee to solve its projected budget shortfall.

In Dallas, formulas would be developed to determine how much to charge based on the size of the property and traffic it generates. There would also be administration expenses to implement and collect the fee.

But those complications mean the fee would not be in place by Oct. 1, but could be applied in future years.

“All we’re doing right now is brainstorming,” Allen said.


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