Our Opinion: Higher fees might not be bad idea

Published 4:44 am Monday, January 29, 2007

By Staff
Sheriff Grover Smith wants local bars to start paying a higher tab for police protection - and it might not be such a bad idea.
But convincing state legislators to do it would be the hard part.
Here is Smith's reasoning: Some clubs operate on Sundays, which means additional manpower is needed on a day when the sheriff's department often cuts back its hours.
Part of the problem is that nearly all law enforcement agencies in the state are undermanned and under-funded - so the help that the sheriff's department could get from agencies like the Alabama Beverage Control Board, for example, isn't as much as is needed.
Raising the alcohol license fee schedule would help offset the law enforcement costs for everyone, including local agencies that are doing the grunt work of providing protection while clubs and lounges are in operation.
Is that singling out those businesses? Perhaps. But if there are greater law enforcement costs associated with such businesses, it makes sense economically for them to pay higher rates.
Getting legislators to agree to such an increase is likely going to be difficult. Voters - and therefore legislators - tend to look on any increase in fees as an increase to taxpayers, even when the costs associated with services necessitate an increase.
We're glad our sheriff has made an issue of the subject - and that Escambia County commissioners seem to agree.
But they will have to make a lot more noise - and convince their colleagues in other counties to do the same - before legislators are likely to recognize the need for more money.

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