Buckeye Council approves change to court fee

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The Buckeye City Council shot down a proposal Tuesday to increase one of its Municipal Court fees by a substantial amount.

A moment later, the Council voted for a more modest increase.
The Council voted 4-3 against a proposed ordinance to increase of the city’s court enhancement fee to $20 per violation.

Council then voted 6-1 to change its longtime $10 court enhancement fee from per-case to per-charge.

Municipal Court Judge John Burkholder, in making his third presentation to the council on the topic of fee increases this year, said there occasionally are cases that include more than one charge.

While it’s unclear how many defendants will be affected by the change or how much new revenue it might produce, the policy change didn’t even need to go before council.

City Attorney Shiela B. Schmidt told Burkholder and the council any motion to approve the ordinance must be clear, and that only increases to fee amounts are subject to council approval at public meetings.

“The issue we have is that we have to provide advance notice to the public, because you’re voting on a fee increase,” Schmidt said. “If you just want to change how a fee is assessed, that could have been done without going through the statutory process.”

Councilors Tony Youngker, Patrick HagEstad, Jeanette Guy and Michelle Hess voted against Vice Mayor Craig Heustis’ motion to approve the $20 increase. Hess was the lone vote against the proposal to change the $10 fee from per-case to per-charge.

HagEstad, after about 10 minutes of grilling Burkholder on the impetus for the change, explained why he was about to vote no on changing both from $10 per case to $20 per charge.

Revenue from the court enhancement fee has been averaging $44,000 per fiscal year.

The council member said it was his impression from earlier hearings Burkholder wanted the change mainly to make the fees more explainable to those being fined.

However, upon hearing Burkholder say Tuesday the extra revenue would))) be mainly to amass a rainy day fund for rough times, the HagEstad said he became more skeptical.

“I’m committed to only voting for tax or fee increases that we absolutely need,” he said.

Also Tuesday, the council held a first annexation hearing for a property targeting commercial use near State Route 85 and Baseline Road.

The council also unanimously approved boundaries for an Airport Overlay District.

On the consent agenda, an on-call consulting engineering and architectural services contract with Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions Inc. for the design of headworks at the Sundance Water Reclamation Facility, will cost the city a maximum of $172,000.

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