PEPPERELL — With prices that have gone virtually unchanged in over 20 years, Town Clerk Lois Libby likes to joke that local permits and certificates are some of the best deals in town.
But on a more serious note, Libby thinks the town needs to generate more revenue for those services and is proposing substantial rate hikes for the coming fiscal year.
“The fees are more or less double, most of them,” said Libby, during a recent meeting with the Finance Committee.
Explaining why, Libby said many rates haven’t changed since she took over in 1986, saying Pepperell’s rates have become noticeably cheaper than in other communities across the region. With the town facing budget difficulties, Libby said increasing rates is a case of the town charging more of a fair market rate for the processing and postage that often goes into permitting work.
“It’s just a change with the times,” she said.
Though no votes were taken, the Finance Committee sounded supportive of the change. The ultimate decision is expected to lay with town meeting voters this spring.
All told, 19 types of permits and certificates are being targeted for the rate hikes. Marriage, birth, and death certificates would rise from $5 to $10, while business and fuel storage certificates would jump from $10 to $25.
Should the hikes be adopted by town meeting, Libby expected the new rates would increase Town Clerk receipts by $8,528 — roughly 30 percent — with most of that new revenue coming from sale of dog related licenses.
Libby is proposing that annual dog licensing fees increase from $6 to $10 for spayed or neutered animals and $10 to $15 for unaltered. Kennel fees are also slated to increase by $15 to $25, depending on size.
Those hikes are projected to generate $4,978 of additional revenue, increasing the town’s dog-related revenue by 45 percent, though Libby said the changes wouldn’t take effect until 2011, because her office has already started issuing th 2010 licenses.
Referencing the 2009 revenue figures for the Town Clerk’s office, Libby showed that annual dog licenses are her biggest seller, generating $11,062 of the department’s total revenue figure of $20,815. Additionally, Libby’s office drew another $1,631 from late dog-registration fees.
Conversely, Libby said the town makes very little on Fish and Wildlife related permits, noting that the town kept only $494 of those fees in 2009, forwarding the remaining $10,054 of those revenues back to Fish and Wildlife. She said that split has prompted many communities to stop selling those permits but added she continues to do so because people in the area like to hunt and fish.
It is unclear whether the changes will be adopted by the town. Under state and local law, any rate change requires town meeting approval. Having already compiled the documents to put this proposal on the warrant, Libby didn’t expect this would be a controversial item,
“I don’t think so,” she said. “These haven’t been changed in years.”‘