Ventura police would charge residents more to tow their cars or for repeated calls to break up loud parties under a proposed $103-million budget the City Council will consider Monday.
Although the city initially projected a $1.5-million deficit, the 1994-95 budget proposal now shows a $543,000 surplus because of increased tax revenues and a concerted effort by city employees to collect parking fees and monitor fire code enforcement.
The proposed budget, which would go into effect July 1, includes proposals to raise a variety of “user fees"--charges that partially or completely reimburse the city for issuing individual permits or providing specific services to an individual or company.
Most of the City Council members say they generally support the higher fees.
The proposed increases include:
* Doubling the amount the city charges to tow a car, effective July 1, from $30 to $63--the same amount it costs the Ventura Police Department to provide the service.
* Charging a $218 fee when police are summoned to break up a loud party. On the first call in such cases, officers would only issue a warning. However, the fee would be levied for a subsequent call to the same house. Currently, there is no charge for such calls.
* Raising most permit fees for large developers, although in many cases such fees would drop for residents building their own home or adding on a structure to their property. Building permit fees are tiered according to how many homes someone plans to build, planners said.
“It’s the small guy, the little guy, we are trying to help,” said Mitch Oshinsky, a city planner.
Even with the fee increases, many services would not cost as much as city officials say Ventura pays to provide them.
The city in many cases would continue to subsidize up to 40% of the cost of most services. Officials said they hope to avoid raising city fees so high that they drive away local businesses and residents.
City staff said it is difficult to estimate how much extra money the higher fees would bring in because the demand for permits and city services is unpredictable.
Staff members proposed to raise city fees this year after a consulting firm monitored the amount of time and effort staff put into accomplishing each service for which the city charges. The consultants discovered that, in some cases, the staff was erroneously charging more than the service actually cost to provide.
However, as a result of the consultant survey, fees will decrease for some services.
For example, the consultant found, it only costs Ventura about $1,229 to process a routine permit application for the construction of a new house, but the city was charging a permit fee of $2,030. Planners propose to charge applicants 60% of that cost, or $740.
However, a development of more than 16 homes that must go before the Planning Commission or even the City Council costs Ventura about $5,692, planners discovered. City staff proposed again charging 60% of the cost--in this case, $3,400.
Some Ventura City Council members say eventually they would like to see developers’ fees raised even higher.
“I don’t think it will make one iota (of a) dent in developers coming forward” to build in Ventura, said Councilman Gary Tuttle. “That might be an ultimate goal here, in my opinion.”
Local developers said that move would backfire on individual home buyers because builders would merely pass on the expense.
“They’re not increasing the cost to developers--they’re increasing the cost to buyers,” said Lynn Jacobs, president of Affordable Communities, a Ventura-based development company.