City halts rental registration fee increase

Alex Doty • Jan 6, 2017 at 11:00 AM

A plan to increase fees for the registration of rental properties in Grand Haven has been put on the back burner until the city’s next budgeting cycle.

City Council this week nixed a plan to increase rates for regular rental registrations by $5 per year. That would have meant $30 per unit per year for 10 or more units, and $40 per unit per year for fewer than 10 units.

Councilman Josh Brugger was the sole supporter.

According to City Manager Pat McGinnis, the change is needed because the current fee structure isn’t keeping up with the cost of the city’s inspection program.

“It became apparent that we were going to need to make adjustments to the regular rental registration fee schedule,” he said.

City administration estimates that it will cost more than $70,000 a year to manage the regular rental registration program, and the city only anticipates collecting $59,000 for the program.

“The regular rental registration rates need to be bumped up,” McGinnis said.

Unless the fees are adjusted, McGinnis said it’s likely that city taxpayers will be subsidizing the program.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting, a $300-per-unit fee was also suggested for short-term rental units. This item was scratched from the agenda at the start of the meeting.

Brugger, who noted that he rents out property in the city, said he doesn’t want to see those who don’t benefit from the program paying for it.

“Unfortunately, if we don’t raise these, everybody who doesn’t own a rental property — short term or long term — is paying the bill,” he said. “That’s a whole lot of citizens out there. I don’t want Ma and Pa homeowner ... who have no interest in renting a property paying for me to have my inspections. It’s not fair to them.”

Others on City Council were reluctant to make a change to the registration fees at this point in the city’s fiscal year.

“Even though it’s a small increase of $5 — which is a cup of coffee at Starbucks — I do agree that budget time is the time to set fees rather than halfway through the (fiscal) year,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “I don’t think it’s going to break anybody, and I don’t think it’s going to make a difference to anybody.”

Councilman Bob Monetza shared a similar view.

“My initial reaction to this budget item was very similar to (Brugger’s), but I’ve changed my mind,” Monetza said.

Monetza said the fees should be addressed at the city’s budget process rather than mid-fiscal year. This would allow the public to have a chance to weigh in on these and other fees, fines and taxes.

“To do it like this would cover ourselves for having been misjudged last year,” he said.

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