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Editorial: Huntington, W.Va., user fee is a necessary nuisance

From The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington:

Every so often, the debate over the amount and use of the Huntington city user fee flares up. It happened again a couple of weeks ago.

It started when WSAZ-TV Newschannel 3 aired a sweeps-month report raising questions about whether the money collected from the user fee was going where it was supposed to go: to support the Police Department and to pave streets.

At a Huntington City Council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Steve Williams said the money is being collected and spent properly, which can be shown by the fact that 16 audits have not found problems with the city’s user fee practices. Williams pledged that his administration will make greater efforts inform the public about how it benefits from the fee.

It’s called a user fee because it’s a fee charged to people who use city services. It’s a flat fee because if a policeman answers a call, it costs the city the same no matter the income level of the person who made the call. Streets deteriorate no matter how rich the person is who drives the car on them. It has to be called a user fee because state law at the time the fee was enacted did not allow cities to levy income taxes. That last part has changed since the advent of home rule, but an effort by former Mayor Kim Wolfe to consider an income tax failed. …

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