Water, sewer exempt: Council approves across the board fee increases

January 11, 2017
Santa Paula News

The city should be seeing more money after an across the board rate increase for user fees was approved by the City Council at the January 3 meeting.

The increases do not apply to the sewer or water charges, which have their own enterprise funds. 

According to the report by Finance Director Sandy Easley, the user fee increases are estimated to provide an additional $351,466 annually in total revenues for citywide services. 

“This estimate is based on assumptions that the current service activity remains the same,” and Easley noted that “Actual revenues will depend on development activity and other city service requests.”

The increased revenue for the current fiscal year is estimated at $75,000-$100,000. 

The council last addressed the issue November 21, 2016 when they had a staff presentation on the status of citywide user fees and a rate study.

The current citywide user fee and rate structure and schedule being used by the city was last updated and adopted in 2000 with additional increases in 2011 and 2013. 

The city retained NBS Consultants to prepare a new study that analyzed the cost of service per activity. Some new fees were added while others were lowered or eliminated due to activity rates.

“Adoption of the proposed fees will be another step in preparing for future economic recovery for the city,” and noted Easley, “It is the end of the long process.”

Vice Mayor Ginger Gherardi said she spoke to Easley regarding several concerns, including that the report “doesn’t show the old fees, just the new fees. I just felt it important to actually know what we’re getting.”

Gherardi also asked about the status of deposits and if there are added fees and learned they are many charged by the Planning Department. 

Planning Director Janna Minsk said “historically, some are flat fees and some are deposits,” that actual charges are drawn from.

“We bill against our time and as we track our time at the end of the process we know how much it costs to do that particular work,” under the department’s purview, such as design reviews.

Easley noted Public Works also “take a lot of deposits…”

Councilman Martin Hernandez complimented staff on the report but questioned prior discussions with staff where council requested maximum percentage increases each year versus the full cost, which would allow full recovery in four years. 

Easley noted the council had also asked for full cost recovery and in some cases fees “Are less expensive as we broke down to a simple scope of work.”

Gherardi questioned the cost of a permit for inflatable jumpers and Easley noted such a cost is only occurred if the jumper is used at a city park; there is no permit required for home use.

“I notice the Main Street banner fee is going to double,” said Gherardi, and Recreation Supervisor Ed Mount said banner placement is done by Public Works.

Mount said, “But we can reevaluate that,” as banner requests come through the Recreation Department.

Hernandez also questioned nonprofits: “I thought there was going to be something in the fee schedule, a break for nonprofits.”

In 2011, said Mount, the city, rather than charge full rate recovery for nonprofit events, “came up with a special event flat fee. For a fully allocated police officer it would be $90 an hour but we reworked it to $47, quite a savings.”

City Attorney John Cotti said the breaks for nonprofits “applied to park use,” and not banners.

After more discussion the council approved the fee increases.

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