Charleston workers react to Mayor Jones' goal of earlier user fee increase

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wants an increase in the city services user fee sooner than originally planned, so the city can hire more police officers. (WCHS/WVAH)

With Charleston Mayor Danny Jones' goal of hiring more police officers, an increase in the city services user fee could be taken out of workers' paychecks a lot sooner than expected,

The mayor's plan hinges on whether city council will support his suggestion of raising the fee by 50 cents at the beginning of next year.

"It sounds like a minuscule amount of money, 50 cents, but it's not, every bit makes a difference,” Taylor Books Manager Dan Carlisle said.

It adds up quickly, especially for lower income workers who need every cent they make.

"People who are working in Charleston at these hourly wage jobs aren't making that much, so to take $6 out of their paycheck every two weeks is not insignificant,” Carlisle said.

Since 2004, the user fee has risen from $1 a week to $2.50 and is set to increase to $3 by 2020.

Jones wants to raise it in 2018, so he can hire at least 10 more police officers, which he said could help with crimes being committed by transient people living on the streets.

Parking Enforcement Officer Merrie Harris believes action needs to be taken.

"It's a problem, so yeah I think more police officials would definitely help," Harris said. "I’m willing to pay the extra user fee."

In 13 years, the fee has brought in more than $60 million. It’s money that by law has to go toward police services or city maintenance and road projects. If the early increase is approved, Charleston business owner Adrian Wright questions if more police would solve the problem.

"If they are going to increase it, the sidewalks, the streets I don't think changing the money from this year to three years from now will help anybody because hey, police officers are doing their job,” Wright said.

Carlisle said he is concerned that "OK, you raise the fee, but then we still have the same problems."

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