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Life in cities becoming expensive

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Cash-strapped town halls, don’t even have sufficient funds for sidewalk cleanup. City residents are increasingly expected to foot a larger portion of the bill.

Thanks to the economic crisis, municipal coffers across the country are significantly emptier than in past years. Residents are thus expected to plug the gap in city budgets. The fees for garbage collection and dog ownership are higher than ever before.

The residents of Příbram have had to pay more for garbage collection as of the beginning of this year. Up until last year, the city was one of the last in the country not to charge the maximum amount for trash pickup allowed by Czech laws. The fee jumped from CZK 480 to CZK 500. “It has to do with the economic crisis. As a result of the downturn, the cost of garbage processing has increased and that’s why we had to raise collection fees,” said Venuše Štochlová, head of the city’s economic department.

A 100% increase
If residents didn’t foot the bill, the city would need to pay CZK 1.2 million more from its budget than last year. Then there would be insufficient funds for sidewalk maintenance and for the construction of new playgrounds.

In a number of cities, dog ownership is also becoming more costly. For example in Klášterec nad Ohří, people living in prefab housing complexes now pay significantly more for their dogs, with fees increased from last year’s CZK 1,200 to CZK 1,500. And every additional dog costs CZK 2,250. In Zbýšov in the Brno region, the fee increased from CZK 50 to CZK 150. The city hopes to thus generate funds for the cleanup of public places where people walk their dogs.

Taxes as a cure for everything
By far the biggest source of the city’s income comes from property taxes. The town of Svitavy, for instance, increased its property taxes with the aim to generate CZK 15 million, which would be CZK 8 million more than last year.

In spite of that, the town’s budget will still fall by 10%, and so city representatives are planning to rewrite the budget. They also want to discuss limiting funds for repairing sidewalks and other public areas.

The situation is similar in Hradec Králové. Residents who own houses pay CZK 1,500 a year, which is a CZK 1,000 increase from last year.

Even those living in prefab houses have to pay more. In Roudnice nad Labem, people who live in a two-bedroom flat now pay CZK 300, twice the amount that they paid last year.

According to the Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic, about 7% of cities have raised fees and others are planning to follow suit.

The towns that have increased their fees include Jihlava, Dukovany, Pardubice, Svitavy and Ústí nad Orlicí.

In Prague and Brno, plans to increase fees last year didn’t pass. But this year those plans have been revived. Property taxes in the capital generate roughly half a billion crowns.

Maybe next year in Prague
But even after tax increases, City Hall will need to factor in the impact of the crisis. It has commissioned a study to analyse the crisis’s impact, which should be ready in two weeks.

“We can expect that the results of this study will be reflected in the proposal for the 2010 budget and maybe for the following years as well,” said Zdena Javornická, deputy director for the finance department at Prague City Hall. The higher tax rates would come into effect starting next year. City representatives have until August to decide.

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