Missoula City Council considers fee increases with 2018 budget

In an effort to keep pace with inflation and the rising cost of doing business, several city departments are expected to increase their service fees this summer, from police fingerprinting to fire inspections.

The Missoula City Council’s Budget Committee has set a public hearing for July 24, at which time it’s expected to consider the inflationary increase, along with the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

City finance director Leigh Griffing said the inflationary changes have been implemented each of the past several years.

“We have calculated those using 2.75 percent inflationary rate that’s being used in other areas of the budget, for union increases as well as non-union increases, for example,” said Griffing. “We’ve been meaning to do an updated fee study, and this allows us not to backslide in the meantime.”

Among the increases, the Missoula Police Department may see the largest increases for fingerprinting, producing reports and making compact disks of surveillance and photographs.

Chris Odlin, the department’s administrative captain, said the volume of information handled by the agency has increased in recent years. Receiving a compact disk will increase from $10 to $25, while non-named parties requesting a police report will pay $25.

“We get huge requests from insurance companies, with one party suiting another party,” said Odlin. “We’re trying to pass on some of the personnel costs to the people asking for those reports.”

Odlin said the department has been charging $11 for fingerprinting since 2006, though it’s now proposing to increase that to $15. That brings the cost on par with surrounding agencies, including Missoula County.

“We feel that may even out the workload between us and Missoula County a little bit,” Odlin said. “We had people coming to us because they knew we were cheaper. The demands on our fingerprinting machines will increase dramatically, and it’s putting a lot of demands on our staff that doesn’t really have to be there.”

Odlin said changes to state law, primarily House Bill 133, will likely increase the departments fingerprinting workload. The law requires those cited for certain criminal offenses to be fingerprinted and photographed, even when they don’t go to jail.

“In the past, we haven’t had to do that,” said Odlin. “It means we’ll do 50 extra fingerprints and photographs. We’ve actually purchased a whole other machine just to cover this extra burden.”

Ward 5 council member Julie Armstrong asked the department not to pass on the increases to certain nonprofits, such as Missoula Children’s Theater, which requires its employees to be fingerprinted.

“It’s certainly something we can do,” Odlin said.

Development Services will increase its fees roughly 2.75 percent for engineering and planning fees. It does not, however, plan to increase fees for building permits.

“These are our standard annual increases to our fees,” said department director Mike Haynes. “These fees are outside building permit fees, and those are not proposed to increase this year because of the level of development activity we’re seeing.”