A penny a pound more adds up to a weighty fee


POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

I am thinking of ways to lessen the weight of my car.

You see, the City Council, in all of its wisdom, has decided to raise the tax on motor vehicles by a penny per pound.

If Mayor Mufi Hannemann doesn't veto the Council's budget bill, registering the trusty Toyota — now reaching crusty status at age 19 — will cost a lot more than the $136.75 I paid in February.

Figuring out how much more is way beyond my math skills, but my guess is that $30 to $40 will be added on for the privilege of piloting from home to office, to the grocery store and City Mill next year.

With the ever-escalating price of everything from electricity to toothpaste and screw anchors, the skinny pad of extra cash in the checking account is looking to be leaner or even nonexistent soon.

Cutting costs seems to have become the national pastime. How-to-save advice packs publications online and off and seldom a day goes by without tips about growing your own veggies or downloading coupons.

Buying at Goodwill and second-hand stores is no longer sniffed at and, in fact, has taken on a certain cachet among those who used to frequent only boutiques and brand-name shops, allowing former connoisseurs of brazen consumerism to swathe themselves in being fashionably thrifty.

Sorry to be snippy. It's just that for many people, second-hand has been the only way to go — not an option but a necessity. Some of us have the small comfort of being able to maintain a close-to-familiar lifestyle, but others do not and I wonder how many more will be joining their ranks.

While not all paychecks are shrinking, they don't have to for hardship to sift out little luxuries like movies, a book or a bunch of chrysanthemums.

When increases in fees come at $2 here and there, they don't sound like much. Yet if taken as a whole, a couple of extra bucks each means that mom, dad and two kids will have to pay $8 more to get into the zoo. Auntie and niece will count out $6 more to play the city greens, $9 if they can't walk the course.

Meanwhile, a project to fix up a city building, originally priced at $5.3 million, has surged by more than $558,000 due to “;unforeseen”; problems.

Granted, old buildings have problems that may not be initially evident. However, old buildings generally have old plumbing, wiring and other outdated stuff that obviously won't meet current standards and sensible people making sensible estimates for a rehab ought to have factored them in.

But no. It seems logic often goes missing when taxpayer money is involved and the attitude seems to be “;in for a penny, in for a pound”; as project costs spiral upward.

In the billion-dollar-budget scheme of things, a half-million bucks may not sound like much to decision-makers, but when such extras are taken as a whole, they mean that needed services get cut back — or fees are raised.

Sorry for being snippy again, but that penny per pound peeves. One more thing: How do they know what the Toyota weighs, and is that with or without me in it?


Cynthia Oi can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)