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Dallas City Council considers charging a road-use fee

• By STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning News
 One of the ideas being kicked around Dallas City Hall to raise more revenue in a lean budget year is to charge residents and businesses a road-use fee.

The idea, sure to be controversial if it gains traction, was one of several presented to the City Council on Wednesday in a "brainstorming" session on the budget.

"This is a program that is implemented in some cities to assess a property a fee for the benefit they receive from the road system," said Jack Ireland, executive general manager of the city manager's office. "It's based on the trips that are generated by that property, and it helps defray that cost of the road system."

Ireland noted that Austin employs such a program, which collected $20.2 million last year from residents and $18 million from commercial properties.

The road-use-fee idea didn't prompt much discussion among council members. Only council member Ann Margolin took exception to such a fee.

"I have a really serious problem with that," she said. "Charging to use our streets, I can't even imagine the havoc that that's going to create."

"How many of you would at least like to take a look at it?" Mayor Tom Leppert asked his colleagues. About seven said they might.

Leppert then told City Manager Mary Suhm to continue to consider the measure.

Another revenue-generating idea was to encourage large nonprofit organizations who use city resources to voluntarily contribute to the city in lieu of taxes, which they are legally exempt from paying.

The practice, known as PILOT – Payment in Lieu of Taxes– is used by cities across the country, according to city staffers.

"It may be based on a percentage of the taxable value, or it could be some negotiated rate to cover the cost of police and fire," Ireland said. Applying the city's property-tax rate to charitable, tax-exempt hospitals and medical buildings alone would generate $8.8 million in annual revenue, he noted.

A third idea was to require that waste collected inside city limits be disposed of in the city. The requirement would increase the city's McCommas Landfill revenue by perhaps more than $14 million per year, city officials say.

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