This morning, two stories caught our eye. First off, the weather experts are predicting Philadelphia will get 6 to 12 inches of snow tonight. Second, Mayor Nutter is considering imposing a trash fee on residents to help close the city's $125 million budget gap.
Together, these stories made us wonder: Is it time for a snow fee?
Hear us out. The city has been blasted by at least three record snowfalls this winter. And the cost of snow removal is a major factor in the city's budget gap (it's about $11.5 million this year, not counting tonight's snowfall).
People get that snow removal, particularly overtime and particularly in such an extraordinary winter, is expensive. Wouldn't the public understand the need for a special fee to pay for this?
How could the city collect the fee? Maybe a small surcharge could be added to people's monthly water bill. Both home owners and renters could pay, which seems fair since both groups benefited from the clean up.
The Water Department has about 475,000 customers in Philadelphia. If each paid just $25 extra this year, it would completely cover the cost of snow removal for the series of massive storms.
Unlike a trash collection fee, a "snow surcharge" would be easy to make temporary, because it wouldn't pay for an ongoing service. And applying it wouldn't require setting up a new collection system. It would be a straightforward shot in the fiscal arm for city government.
And hey, the city plans to apply for federal aid to help with the snow, as do many other cities and states. If the aid comes through, the city could refund the fee.
What do you think? Is a snow tax a good idea?
UPDATE: New post: Ok, we take back the snow fee idea!