(08/19/13) - Price gouging at the county level?
That's what one official says is happening, and he wants to put a stop to it.
Genesee County Clerk/Register, John Gleason, is proposing a plan to lower the cost for birth, marriage and death certificates.
Genesee County has the second highest fee costs in the state.
Gleason is calling on commissioners to roll back the price to 2010 levels.
"How can you have the highest fees and have OT and have such a reduction in services that people many times have to wait an hour and half in line?" Gleason said.
Gleason's proposal to the County Board of Commissioners is to lower fees for a certified copy to $15. That's down from the current $25 charge.
He wants the price for non-certified copies to drop from $10 back down to $7.
Gleason says it's not fair to charge high rates to those who can't afford them, and he's calling for an open and candid conversation with commissioners to determine how to best serve the people.
"I didn't come down here to fight anybody, I don't intend to, but I'm going to fight for my office," he said. "We feel strongly that not using the money generated from these revenues is illegal."
The fees were raised first in 2010, then several times after that. The most recent hike came just this year.
Commission Chair Jamie Curtis says those fees are justified and were raised instead of laying off county workers.
"These fees are reasonable, and they have to be where they're at. Not by choice, but plain and simple having a balanced budget," he said.
Gleason believes the money generated by the fees, an estimated $260,000, should remain in his department to invest in more staff or updated technology.
Curtis says county government doesn't work that way.
"It's really easy being one person sitting in an office, and saying, 'I have a surplus, I should be able to keep this and should be able to be the best I can be.' Ok, tell me how I'm going to fund a $22 million expense that I have to do my statute, too," Curtis said. "I think it's sad we aren't working as a team. Does he think I like raising fees, or laying people off? These are rough times.
The finance committee is scheduled to take up Gleason's proposal Wednesday after the regular commission meeting.
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