Some members of the Zionsville Town Council expressed concern regarding some proposed amenity fee increases in 2021 during the council’s Jan. 4 meeting.
The council annually votes to approve fees for various town amenities when considering the town’s fee schedule, a list of all town fees for the year. The fees are one-time charges based on transactions with participating residents and are not charged to all residents. For example, under the proposed 2021 fee schedule, a participating adult resident would be charged $600 for a golf course season pass at Zionsville Golf Course. The collected fees generate revenue for town departments, including the parks and recreation, police and fire departments.
In 2021, the town will collect new fees for some activities connected with special events, fees for duplications of body camera videos and accident photos from the Zionsville Police Department, meeting room fees and fees for the town’s planned dog park.
This year, in part to pay for the increased services, new fees were added to the fee schedule, but some council members voiced their disproval of increasing the price of other fees, particularly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial strain it has put on some residents.
“I just think that in this time of year, in a pandemic setting, we were really diligent on the budget process and in other areas not to increase (taxes),” Jason Plunkett, who the council voted to serve as its vice president in 2021, said (the council voted for Josh Garrett to continue as its president in 2021). “It just doesn’t feel right to me that we would increase fees for amenities for citizens in a time like this.”
Namely, Plunkett questioned why certain fees collected by the parks department were set to increase in the town’s proposed 2021 fee schedule.
Zionsville Supt. of Parks and Recreation Jarod Logsdon said the proposed increased fees are to “cover some of the costs related to the programs in order to expand our programs.”
Logsdon said the town’s parks departments fees are “below the standard for other districts, parks of similar size” according to comparison rates. Collected fees will be invested directly into park programs, he said.
Logsdon said the town’s park master plan indicated “by overwhelming majority” residents are willing to pay more for increased parks services. If the fee increases are not approved and the department needs to use some of its cash reserves, Logsdon said progress on ongoing parks projects identified in its master plan would be halted or delayed.
“These increases, which are often just a dollar or a couple dollars per event, don’t penalize the taxpayer,” Logsdon said. “It’s for participants who choose to participate in these programs. And that money is being reinvested into our programs so that we can expand them. And as that fund continues to grow, we will be able to offer subsides to demographics that need that assistance to participate – for example, seniors on limited income.”
Plunkett said he questioned the rationale of some of the department’s fee increases, as the percentage increase in various fees varied.
During the meeting, Tammy Havard, the town’s chief financial officer, said the town needed to “increase revenues to cover (the town’s) overhead.”
The council ultimately unanimously approved a motion to pass the fee schedule on a first reading. The council will hear a second reading, during which it will decide whether to approve it as written, at its next meeting on Jan. 18.
Ahead of the next meeting, Plunkett and other council members requested more information from Havard and Logsdon to ascertain the reasoning behind specific fee increases and the ramifications in projected dollar amounts of approving or rejecting the proposed fee schedule as written.