Maryland officials are planning to raise exam fees eightfold for state-chartered credit unions, matching the rates charged to Maryland banks.
A bill raising the fees was approved by the state General Assembly April 1. Gov. Parris Glendening is expected to sign it shortly.
Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation H. Robert Hergenroeder pushed the measure to recover more of the estimated $350,000 the state spends annually to examine credit unions.
In an interview, he said he also wants "parity" between fees charged to review credit unions and banks.
"The cost of regulating the Maryland state-chartered credit unions has been paid for by banks," he said.
Maryland's 12 state-chartered credit unions currently pay fees averaging $1,409 a year. Once the fee legislation is enacted, the average annual tab would be $12,485. The 12 institutions would pay a combined $149,814.
The increase was overdue-even according to a credit union lobbyist.
"We realize the fees were very low and had been that way since 1969," said James R. Brown 3d, a lobbyist for the Maryland Credit Union League. "The regulators failed to update those fees as times changed."
The new fees, Mr. Brown said, would still be significantly less than those paid by federally chartered credit unions.
Maryland credit unions with assets of less than $300,000 will not be charged for exams. The fee for larger credit unions will be $1,000 plus 8 cents for every $1,000 of assets over $300,000. The 12 credit unions affected by the legislation have $1.7 billion of combined assets.
While the state credit union league is accepting the increase, it's not sitting well with some institutions.
Michael Gillease, president and chief executive of Maryland Steelworkers Credit Union, which has 11,000 members and $40 million of assets, said it is unfair to charge banks and credit unions the same fees. Bank loans are more difficult to evaluate, he argued.
"We're not lending money to land developments and shopping malls," he said. "Our business is personal loans-boats, cars, and RVs. We're plain- vanilla."
The Steelworkers credit union's exam fee would rise to $4,105, from $975, under the new law.
While bankers in the state did not actively lobby for the law, they support it as a step toward leveling the playing field.
"Having them pay a banklike examination fee is a beginning," said John B. Bowers, executive vice president of the Maryland Bankers Association.