More in City Hall:
- Q&A: Why is Citrus Heights spending millions on a trail instead of repaving roads? September 13, 2020
- The Civic Minute: what’s happening at Citrus Heights City Hall? September 10, 2020
- COVID-19: Results released for first ‘FlashVote’ survey in Citrus Heights September 6, 2020
Sentinel staff report–
Fees charged to residents and developers for building permits and other fees at City Hall could soon rise significantly, if a new Master Fee Schedule is adopted by the City Council on Thursday.
Proposed fee increases range from tripling the price of flat-rate permit issuance fees by the Building Division, down to smaller increases for other fees and a 50% increase in fees related to subdividing. A handful of fees are also proposed to be reduced in cost, and many remain unchanged.
The proposed Master Fee Schedule was compiled with the aid of Matrix Consulting Group, which contracted with the city in April to assist in conducting a comprehensive review of fees currently being charged, compared with estimated actual costs and cost recovery. The city says the fee adjustments will help bring in an additional $600,000 dollars to the city’s $38 million general fund budget, compensating for a significant shortfall in cost-recovery for services provided by various departments in the city.
The last time a comprehensive fee study was conducted was in 2005, although the city has adjusted various fees since then. The city manager’s office said the latest study was needed as “part of [the city’s] continued commitment to fiscal responsibility.”
According to a 59-page draft Fee Study Report obtained by The Sentinel, the city was determined to be under-recovering its costs by about $1.7 million — recovering an average of 54% of its costs through current fees charged. Building, Planning, Police, Engineering and other departments were all examined, with Police and Building departments having the lowest cost recovery at 48% and 49% respectively.
See full fee study report: click here
Cost recovery is sought for services and permits issued that are deemed to benefit an individual or group, rather than the community as a whole. Costs that are not recovered are paid out of the city’s General Fund.
Engineering was found to be recovering 99% of its costs and the Planning Division was found to be recovering 67% of costs, leading to proposed fee increases largely focusing on the Building Division.
A draft Master Fee Schedule with the proposed changes has been posted on the city’s website and lists the various proposed changes, categorized by department.
See the 6-page fee schedule: click here
A sampling of proposed fee changes are included below. The full 6-page fee schedule can also be viewed online here.
Fees for the Building Division are initially proposed to reach 75% cost recovery, followed by 5% additional increases until 90% recovery is attained. All fees are also proposed to rise annually for inflation, based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Building fees. A flat-rate building permit issuance fee would more than triple, going from $68 up to $235. The city’s communications officer confirmed the fees listed for water heater replacement permits ($28), electrical permits ($9-$225), and other building-related permits are in addition to the base permit issuance fee.
She confirmed the cost of a water heater permit would be $235, plus $28, for a total of $264. The current price is a $68 base fee plus $19 for a water heater permit.
Additional plan reviews — required by changes, additions or revisions to plans — would more than double in price, from $65 up to $150.
Project valuation permits on small projects valued between $1-500 would cost $174, up from $68.25.
Planning fees. Re-zoning of properties under two acres would rise by about $5,000, up from the current cost of $7,069. Tentative subdivision maps would increase by 50%, rising to $14,685.
General business license fees would rise to $90, up from the current $79. Annual license renewals would increase from $54 up to $69.
Businesses seeking to sell alcohol would also be charged triple the current rate to obtain a letter of public necessity and convenience from the city. The current fee is $800, while the proposed fee is $2400.
Appeals to the City Council remain at $250, although initially proposed to double.
Police fees. Several fees are set to change in the Police Department, including police reports rising in cost from 10 cents per page to a default $10 fee per report, up to 40 pages. Subsequent pages would be charged at 25 cents per page.
The department is also proposing implementing a $16 fee for “ticket sign offs,” for fix-it tickets. An application fee for towing services would rise to $200, from the current $50 fee, and a new Vehicle Tow Hearing fee would also be implemented at $83.
Gaming permits for new casino employees would rise from $110 up to $136, while renewals would be slashed down to $38.
Pet licensing and alarm permit fees are proposed to remain the same, as the police chief told the City Council that his goal is to encourage compliance by keeping those fees low.
Other departments. Fees in the Engineering Division remain largely remain the same, although restructured. Community Center rental fees also remain the same, with cost recovery averaging 79%.
Fees charged by the City Clerk’s office also remain unchanged, as they are set by state statute.
How do the proposed fees compare with the region?
In setting fees, the State of California stipulates that local agencies “…may not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged.”
According to the Matrix fee study, cost recovery at local agencies across the U.S. averages as low as 20% for police departments to as high as 80 to 100% for building departments.
Proposed fees in Citrus Heights vary in comparison with regional averages, according to data compiled in the fee study report.
Minor use permits in Citrus Heights, even at 100% cost recovery, would still be lower than the regional average, while tentative subdivision maps are currently at the regional average but are proposed to increase to a rate 50% higher than the regional average.
Some discussion was also made of the cost comparison with the region during a council study session on the topic last month.
In setting proposed fees, a consultant told the council the city is balancing several priorities: one being cost recovery for services, while others factors include making sure fees are in line with regional averages and also not so high that they discourage compliance.
“You want to get to a reasonable level with fees that are comparable to your surrounding jurisdictions and are recovering as much as we can without discouraging citizens from complying with the city’s rules and regulations,” the consultant said during a presentation at the council’s study session. “Because you can shoot yourself in the foot by setting fees too high.”
Councilman Steve Miller also commented that fees set too high above the regional average could be an indication “that we’re doing something wrong.”
Mayor Jeannie Bruins also said during the session that setting fees too high could discourage development, noting: “We don’t want to discourage development and redevelopment. We want to encourage that.”
According to a notice posted on the city’s website, written comments can be submitted prior to the public hearing by mailing or dropping off letters to the City Clerk, at 6360 Fountain Square Drive, Citrus Heights, CA, 95621. Individual contact information for City Council members is also posted online, and the entire council can be emailed together at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed Master Fee Schedule during its regular council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12, beginning at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at City Hall, located at 6360 Fountain Square Drive.
If approved by the council, the fees would go into effect next month, on Jan. 1, 2020.
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