Recently, the Rhino Times ran an article – “Hefty Guilford County Fee Increases On The Way Starting July 1” – because, well, there are some very hefty Guilford County fee increases proposed in Guilford County Manager Mike Halford’s recommended fiscal 2024-2025 fiscal budget. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has the final say over the official finished budget that will be adopted in June; however, it is rare that the commissioners alter the fee schedule before adopting a final budget.

After the article came out, Guilford County administrative officials contacted the Rhino Times and requested the publication clarify some points. Before getting to that, here are some of the fees that will increase on July 1 of this year for Guilford County residents if the fee table is adopted as is.

In the proposed budget, cat adoption fees increase from $25 to $75, while the fee for adopting “senior cats” will increase from $10 to $50. Dog adoption fees are scheduled to cost $75 rather than the $50 it does now. Building, electrical,  plumbing mechanical, fuel piping and gas log inspections, which now all cost $40, will each cost $75 if the county manager’s fee schedule is adopted. Subdivision plan review will go from $150 to $200 per plat, while rezoning fees will increase from $500 to $1,000 per case. The price of playing pickleball on county courts will go up from $12 to $15 per hour.

That’s just a sampling of the new fee increases.

And while those fee hikes will increase the amount of money coming into the county’s bank account, county officials want the public to know that that is not the reason for the fee hikes.

In response to the article, Eddi Cabrera Blanco​​​​, the multimedia communications and public relations manager for the county manager’s office responded as follows: “As you mentioned, the county’s fiscal year 2025 recommended budget does include adjustments to the county fee schedule. The recommended changes are not intended to generate millions of dollars in revenue. The county’s fiscal year 2025 recommended fee schedule includes targeted adjustments to align Guilford County’s fees with regional peers, including counties and cities. The proposed changes to the fee schedule estimate an increase in budgeted revenue of $445,000.”

 The response from the county then adds that information presented online at the budget website show how the fee increases align Guilford County with the fees of its regional peers.

Here’s just one example Blanco highlighted: “For example, Guilford County was charging $40 per trade permit fees, while the City of Greensboro and the City of High Point were charging $75. This fee adjustment will align Guilford County with Greensboro and High Point, while helping offset additional resources added in Fiscal Year 2023 and 2024 to reduce the wait time for developers to have inspections completed.”

The county lists a number of similar local governments and shows how their fees are comparable with the recommended fees in the manager’s budget.  In many of those cases, Guilford County’s current fee structure is lower – or will be until July 1, when Guilford County’s new fee schedule will go into effect.

Still, it would be nice if the county could save money by cutting unnecessary programs and just use as a selling point for Guilford County the fact that the fees in Guilford are typically lower than elsewhere.

The official language in Guilford County Manager Mike Halford’s budget recommendation on the fees is this: “To help balance the budget given resource constraints, the budget included [approximately] $400,000 in additional fee revenue from adjustments aligned to peer benchmarking and cost of recovery.”

County officials say they hope county residents are able to better understand the proposed fee schedule adjustments since the increases will, for the most part, simply bring the fees in line with those of other comparable local governments.

Some particular fee increases that generated a lot of ire from Rhino Times readers were the increases in adoption fees on cats, senior cats and dogs. Many saw those moves as self-defeating because the increases may make it more likely the animals will stay in the shelter where taxpayers will continue to pay the cost.
One responder to the Rhino wrote, “Ridiculous. The process to keep these poor animals alive is already challenging enough. This means more animals will be put down because not getting adopted. With a surplus like this the fees should be lowered.”

Another wrote, “Pet shelters are full and you are asking folks to pay more? The callousness! Why don’t you line up the pets and shoot them. Money grabbing thugs.”

And yet another reader sent in, “Just what we needed, an added impairment for rescuing a dog or cat from their shelter! The county should be paying US for that!”