The Fee Trap: Why Alabama’s Local Governments Can’t Shake Fines and Charges


Local governments in Alabama generate more than twice as much revenue from fees as property taxes.

Local governments in Alabama, constrained by the state’s constitutional limits on raising taxes, impose fees and general charges to fund services. As a result, lower-income people pay a more significant share of their income to pay for fees than wealthier people.  The Louisiana Illuminator reviewed over 300 bills during the spring’s legislative session to identify bills passed directing how local governments may raise revenues or spend money.   

You can read the full text here.  

Key Findings:

  • In 2023, court filing and vehicle registration fees were two of the most popular ways to raise revenue.
  • The city of Northport added $162 in fees for speeding tickets that cost $20 or $40.
  • Lamar County imposed fees for fingerprinting, serving papers, and feeding inmates to fund their sheriff’s office.
  • Coffee and Pike County can now impose diversion program fees between $150 and $2,100.
  • The Urban Institute found Alabama received $567 per person in property taxes and $1,3046 in fees per individual in 2021; the average in the United States is $1,837 in property taxes and $982 in general fees per person.
Ralph Chapoco
Louisiana Illuminator