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Bartholomew County residents will see fee increases of up to 25 percent when they request some records and inspections from the county health department.
The new fee schedule went into effect Friday and is meant to help the department reduce its dependence on property tax dollars, Collis Mayfield, the department’s director, told County Commissioners.
More than six years have passed since the department raised its fees for restaurant licenses and three years since the county increased fees for vital records such as birth and death certificates, said County Commissioners President Carl Lienhoop.
“As a taxpayer, I would prefer us to raise fees because I don’t want to pay for what the health department is going to do anyway,” Mayfield said. “I would rather... that a person building a new restaurant pay for his license through the fee than the county having to pay for going there to inspect for his license.”
The fees would have raised about $18,000 more for the department based on the number of birth certificates, restaurant licenses and new restaurants last year.
The steepest cost increase is for birth certificates, which increased 25 percent to $10.
Restaurant license fees, which are divided into three tiers by the number of employees, will increase $20 annually in each tier. Restaurants are inspected at least twice a year and are reinspected if they fail. The new fee schedule also adds a $50 application fee for new restaurants. Mayfield said that process involves reviewing the plans and menu before the opening.
Mayfield said that the county’s fees were at or near the lowest of more than 40 counties checked by his office. Even with the increases, the fees do not cover the staff costs to perform the restaurant license inspections or to maintain the vital records, he said.
County resident John Dishinger protested the fee increases last month, especially the proposed increase in the death certificate costs.
“If there is any time they need some compassion, instead of an increase in fees, it is there,” Dishinger said.
County Commissioners agreed to the increases after several weeks of discussion but excluded a proposed $2 increase on death certificates from $8 to $10. Commissioner Rick Flohr argued that people dealing with a death in the family do not need to be hit with a higher fee, especially because a death requires survivors to have multiple copies of the original death certificate on hand.
Lienhoop said that he thinks it is a shame the county can’t provide death certificates for free, but Mayfield said $1.75 of that fee goes to support the coroner’s office.
The ordinance also changed the fee structure for immunizations and health screenings, allowing the county to charge what insurances companies are willing to pay.
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