Council to discuss harbor fees, increases

At its Tuesday study session, the Newport Beach City Council will review several possible harbor fee increases that would affect local sailors and dock owners.

The suggested increases come from a July report issued by MGT of America Inc., which was hired by the city to examine how much it costs Newport Beach to perform certain services for local businesses, sailors and residents versus what the city gets back in fees and fines.

What MGT found — which was not unexpected considering that fees hadn't been examined in more than 14 years — was that in several areas the city's fees for services weren't offsetting the cost of performing them.

For example, the city was charging visitors $36 for a tour of the marine preserves, a popular attraction for students and tourist groups. That's only 8% of what it actually costs the city for the tours, which MGT calculated to be $436. The fee should be raised to $69, doubling the city's current revenue on the tours, though it would be a far cry from covering all the costs.

With other, less-costly services like submitting plans for new or reconfigured docks, processing permits to live on a boat or operate a business in the harbor, MGT recommended that the city recover 100% of the fees. The fee to build a new dock or pier would jump from $180 to $647, and submitting plans to dredge to the city would go from $500 to $1,640, according to the study session staff report.

However, in three areas — fees for non-commercial and commercial pier transfers and being put on a wait-list to live aboard your boat — the fees should be lowered, MGT recommended.

In all, MGT recommended increasing seven fees, which could generate $64,000 annually. Outside of transfer fees, every other city fee related to commercial and non-commercial piers was ignored because of potential legal pitfalls.

The city paid for a similar study in 1996 by another company, but both the community and city officials disagreed with that firm's methodology and rejected its findings, officials said.

City staff will ask for direction and ideas from council members on MGT's report after the study session. The study session is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 3300 Newport Boulevard.

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