High fees lead to regulation

Caseyville Township officials are complaining about lawmakers’ efforts to regulate sewer tap-on fees. But they have only themselves to blame for this happening. It is because they are charging sky-high fees that there is a call for lawmakers to act.

Normally we’d agree that the state not get involved in local government’s business. But it’s pretty difficult for lawmakers to just stand by and do nothing when a “rogue government” refuses to regulate itself. And Caseyville Township fits that description given to it by its critics.

The sewer tap-in fee the township charges is legend. A fee of $2,000 a fixture might not sound like a lot until you count up all the fixtures an apartment complex or hotel or office complex would need.

The total charge can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more costly than the charges in other communities in Southern Illinois. Even Chicago and DuPage County don’t charge fees this high.

We get it that Caseyville Township likes having a cash cow. In 2014 the township had $7.5 million in its tap-on fee account, or $1.2 million more than it had two years earlier. But the fee is increasingly becoming an obstacle to growth in the Fairview Heights and O’Fallon area. It’s one more reason that businesses look at the metro-east and choose to build in other locations.

If township leaders want to stop the legislative push, the simple way to do it would be to voluntarily change their fees to be in line with other communities. But we expect that lawmakers will have to act if these fees ever are to come down.