G.P. Woods Truth: "Killer fees" are swarming

Alarm, water and credit card fees are a cash-cow for GP Woods' bloated budget.

    Like a descending cloud of stinging insects, Grosse Pointe Woods taxpayers this year are being attacked by a swarm of "killer fees" designed to milk more money from residents who own burglar alarms, pay water bills or pay their taxes with a credit card.

   Several so-called "service" fees, alas, have been skillfully manipulated to become unvoted tax increases. Some fees are necessary, like those you pay to assure that construction and installation of public services are safe and sound. Too many of them, however, are just put there to fleece taxpayers.

   Heard about the new burglar alarm charge?

   If your house is alarmed, you now must pay a one-time $60 three-year fee to register it. In the past, if your alarm went off too frequently you'd get charged by the city if police had to respond. Now if it goes off and you haven't paid the alarm registration "fee," you don't get any break.

   Which begs the question: "Why must we pay such high taxes and an additional 'fee' just to have a burglar alarm to keep our family safe?"

   Woods' residents get billed six times a year for water. No matter how much water and/or sewerage your household consumes, you must pay an additional $2 "billing expense" on each invoice - which recently was doubled from $1.

    What's the 2 bucks for? Who knows? The Woods has a full-time water clerk who gets a salary, generous paid vacation, paid health care etc., all charged against the city's bloated budget that your hard-earned money goes to bloat.

    Put a pencil to it. There are roughly 7,000 homes and businesses in Grosse Pointe Woods. They all buy city water. Thus, six times a year the city collects $14,000 from home owners and businesses, just for billing you? That's $84,000 a year that 7,000 consumers dump into the city treasury ON TOP of their meter charges.

  Another recent entry in the Woods' fee-collecting marathon is a whopping 4 per cent surcharge levied if you choose to pay your property tax bill with a convenient credit card.

    Now, the advantages of paying any large purchase with a credit card are  obvious. We can pay the debt off slowly (with huge interest added for the banks, of course) and pile up airline miles and assorted other valuable credits for future use.

    For years Grosse Pointe Woods residents begged to use plastic  to pay their property tax bills even with the added interest, but were sternly refused. Last winter, however, the Woods' tax-and-spend city council realized that a "credit card surcharge" could be a real cash cow. If you want it, they'll happily make you pay for it!

     In addition to the bizarre one per cent "administration fee" the city always has tacked onto our semi-annual property tax bills just for going to all the "trouble" of billing us, this year Wood' officials have added a new 3 per cent "courtesy" or "processing" fee to use plastic.

      Courtesy? Say your tax bill is $3,000 and you want to charge it. Your total add-on "killer" fee is 4 per cent, or $120. Property taxes are payable twice a year. Say your annual tax total is $6,000. You must pay the city $240 for the dubious "privilege" of giving them that $6 grand?

     You may want to remember in November that these same fee-crazy city leaders want you to vote to give them 4-mills, totalling $2 million a year, for a Headlee Override blank check and a questionable 10-year road bond, instead of cutting their bloated budget, salaries and expenses like you and I have to do when money's short.

      Tell 'em to tighten their belts. NO New Taxes. NO Blank Check.

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Bob Frapples August 07, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I completely agree that I shouldn't have to pay extra for a security system at my house. It is the job of the police to response to a reported crime and it shouldn't matter who reported the crime whether it was me, a neighbor or my alarm company. As for the credit card fee, i might be able to agree with them. Credit card companies take a percentage of each sale and depending on the processing company and the card used the fee can range 1.5% up to 5% (or higher) of the sale and some tack on other fees as well. Retailers build those fees into their profit margins from the beginning and most of us have been offered a discount if we pay cash at an independent retailer and even gas stations have a cash or credit price difference so if the city never anticipated accepting credit cards they wouldn't have built in the safety net percentages.
walden schmidt August 08, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Most municipalities charge various fees for services because they can’t absorb the cost of administering them. GPW is not unique. The 1% fee added to the property tax bill is required under state law and is used to reimburse a municipality for administering the property tax system on behalf of the various taxing entities listed on the bill. Municipalities are not retail businesses that can raise prices or attract new business to cover costs. A simple check of Web sites reveals that all local municipalities that accept property tax payments with a credit card, pass the processing charge back to the tax payer. If they didn’t, what service should be reduced to cover the expense? Again, you’re lobbing the conspiracy theory that GPW was “making money” from these fees. Do you have any proof or is this just another unfounded accusation? Per the city manager where I live (not GPW), the service fee on a water bill is to cover the expense of the billing process (card stock that the bill is printed on, printing, postage etc.). He explained that because it’s a utility, they can not simply “bury” these costs in the rates or take them out of the general fund.
Bill IV August 10, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Grosse Pointe Farms has had this ridiculous alarm fee since i've been living there. It's $200.00 up front for four years (or it might be five). Either way, why in the world do i have to pay them $40 or $50 a year so i can feel safe at night? Maybe if the police would catch the people who have broken into multiple homes over the summer maybe i wouldn't need one. Instead they do radar looking to pull me over for speeding. I'm not trying to bash the cops because they do a pretty good job, i'm just sick of the fees, taxes and BS.
Bob Frapples August 11, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Last time I checked speeding is still a crime that police need to address. Also, by stopping a speeder or someone breaking another traffic infraction it gives them reason to check for a host of other reasons that speeder might be wanted or to see if they have guns, drugs or anything else. All crimes should be looked into by police, even the ones most people see as dumb, little infractions like parking meter violations, no turn signal when changing lanes, even jay-walking. Don't like the hassle? Don't speed, problem solved.
Bill IV August 11, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Hey Bob, I haven't had a speeding ticket in 15 years. When the police are sitting in their cars, head down, playing on their phones, it's a little hard to do your job. The status quo is not working. Home invasion after home invasion, time to change their game plan because it's not working. And thanks for the explanation, I had no idea that's how it worked in the world of police. I have an IQ of 50. Meadow Ln had two cars on blocks a couple weeks ago. My parents on Buckingham had their house and garage robbed so don't tell me how things work. We caught them btw because my mom is a tough lady. Not because they were doing radar.
Bob Frapples August 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Sorry if I've offended, it was your comment about "looking to pull you over for speeding" that led me to assume.


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