By Bruce Amaro
HAVERHILL — Later this month, people who depend on taxis will find out if they will have to dig deeper into their wallets for rides.
At a meeting in City Hall, a committee of city councilors will listen to proposals to resolve a proposed taxi fare increase. Concern that the increase could make rides unaffordable for those most in need have made the proposal an issue for city officials and residents.
The fares could increase by as much as 21 percent, according to the proposal.
The Administration and Finance Committee of the City Council will hear a proposal to raise the fee from attorney Paul Magliocchetti, who represents Haverhill's American Taxi company. He is also a member of the School Committee.
The meeting will allow public comment, and people who use taxis in the city are encouraged to attend and give their input.
"We want to hear what the people who use the taxis have to say," said Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien, who chairs the committee.
At the meeting, the committee will review the input and make recommendations to the entire council on the proposed hike.
Councilor William Macek said the council can alter the committee's recommendations until a final decision is reached.
The taxi companies want a 21 percent fare increase from 30 to 35 cents for each one-eighth of a mile traveled. That would boost the rate to $2.75 from the current $2.25. The hourly rate would jump from $21 to $25.
City Councilor David Hall said he is against the proposal.
"I just can't buy it,'' Hall said. "These hikes will hurt those least able to afford it, the disabled and elderly who live on fixed income."
At an earlier meeting, Magliocchetti said gasoline prices have increased by at least 50 percent since the last taxi fare increase, which the city approved in December 2006.
Macek said he believes a compromise can be reached.
"We don't know what the recommendation will be or how it will be voted on,'' he said.
Macek also expressed concerns about the effect the fare hike will have on elderly residents.
"We have to consider what these increases will do to our seniors, who have limited incomes," he said.
The meeting will be scheduled and a date announced, but councilors said they expect it to happen later this month.