When it comes to governments and user pay fees, they’re usually characterized as cost recovery.
That’s true for city hall’s $1.15 fee for mailing out hard copies of bills, but it also serves another purpose, as a disincentive for people who insist on having a largely redundant piece of paper mailed out to them on a monthly basis.
Compared to the automated process of an e-bill, the cost of sending out that piece of paper is significant and comes at a cost of staff time. There are two arguments against the mail fee, the first being that not everyone has access to email or is able to use it easily. Penticton is a city with a large senior population, and while the majority of them are adept at using computers, there are some who aren’t and likely will never be.
Should those members of our community be financially penalized because computer use doesn’t come naturally to them?
The second argument is one that applies to governments of all levels. It’s also an argument that we lost a long time ago. That’s the question of whether governments should be charging user fees at all.
We pay taxes when we earn money, and we pay taxes when we spend it. Should we be paying again when we access common government services? Is that not part of what we pay taxes for?
Can you imagine having to pay the RCMP directly in order to get an officer to attend the scene of a break and enter or a motor vehicle incident?
Penticton’s mail surcharge would be acceptable as a disincentive, but it’s not right to charge even a small segment of the community with a fee that they can’t avoid. Perhaps a reward for changing to e-bills would be fairer.
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