Plymouth Institutes Franchise Fees

January 30, 2014 at 1:01 am Leave a comment

By Andrew Richter

I’ve always had a high regard for Mayor Kelli Slavik and the Plymouth City Council. I’m starting re-think that after their January 14 meeting where they passed a franchise fee or as i can it; utility tax.

A franchise fee is basically a city tax on your electric and gas bill to allegedly pay for roads and streets (don’t we have taxes for that already). Several cities in the metro area including Golden Valley, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, and Minnetonka have similar fees, so Plymouth is simply following the trend. Plymouth is estimating that it will collect $2,000,000 a year in “fees.” Plymouth is also claiming that they will “only use it for street projects” but there doesn’t seem to be anything that will stop them if they change their minds. Once the tax revenue is coming in, the guess here is that at some point it will be just thrown in the general fund.

The council’s comments were a bit disturbing to me;

Jim Willis: “it’s a fee and in some people’s minds it’s a tax by another name. It’s getting into your pockets and we understand that.”

As I always say, there are no points given for a council member “understanding.” Residents don’t need you to understand councilman, this isn’t a psychology seminar.

Willis: “We’re trying to address a long term problem……and that’s to maintain our capital assets, transportation, and streets. We know from experience that if we do not invest in our streets and public transportation system our city becomes undesirable.”

And here’s another typical line; pay up or the word will end.

Willis: “We don’t brag about raising taxes or fee.”

That sure doesn’t stop you from doing it does it?

Judy Johnson: “We’re making sure these funds that we’re generating go right into the very projects that there’s connection to those utilities.”

Now I like Judy, she’s been a good council person for Plymouth but i ask again; what’s to stop a future city council from diverting these funds into something else? What’s to stop you from doubling or tripling the ‘fee?” The state of Minnesota raised the price of cigarettes supposedly “for health” but now it;s funding a Vikings Stadium. Hennepin County raised a sales tax to pay for a Twins Stadium and they are now spending it to keep libraries open on Sunday. So why can’t I conclude that Plymouth won’t someday won’t spend on something else.

Johnson: “Not that we are going after non-profits, schools, and churches, and those folks cuz their budgets are tight too but it does pick up revenue from people that typically don’t pay taxes.”

So I’m going to pay taxes to a school then they are going to see their utility bills go up with a portion going to the city. Isn’t that already my tax dollars? So the city is taxing a tax-funded school. My offerings at church will no go towards taxes…..yippy!

Tim Bildsoe: “When the debt service on Vicksburg is done, theoretically we have a choice; we can continue with a franchise fee, lower the franchise fee, or we can get rid of it.”

OK if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Crystal to sell you…..

Mayor Kelli Slavik had been opposed to franchise fees for a long time but she sang a different tune at this meeting.

Slavik: “This is kind of a way to get everybody to pay in equally. I’m not crazy about it, I’m not excited about it, but it is a way to raise revenue for the streets and it will be dedicated to our streets.”

Only Ward 4 Councilman Jim Prom would take a stand against it and make some sense.

Prom: “I think it’s not likely that if we pass this tonight it will ever be taken away.”

Here here!

Prom, however, was on an island. He was the only NO vote as it passed 6-1.

Folks, this is an issue that you will see in your city sooner or later. they never miss a chance to raise that “revenue.” I’m very disappointed in Plymouth….P U!

Video of the Meeting


Entry filed under: Agenda 21, City Government, Community, Hennepin, Mayor, Plymouth, Taxation. Tags: , , , .

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