Consultants suggest fee hikes to close deficit

Financial consultants told the City Council on Tuesday that they should consider raising fees for code enforcement and some permits as they work to close a projected $18-million budget deficit for next fiscal year.

Council members did not commit to any fee hikes, instead seeking more specific information in department-by-department hearings. The city is also planning to use budget cuts and a hiring freeze that officials say would contribute $7 million toward addressing the projected shortfall.

Chris Fisher, a consultant with Willdan Financial Services, suggested a $28 fee be added to multifamily residential rental property tax bills to help fund the city’s rental housing inspection program, and proposed a new fee for code compliance inspections when a commercial or residential property is being sold.

He also recommended the city increase its technology surcharge on complex developments and other permit applications from 6.7% of actual cost to 17.5%.

The city currently generates $175,000 a year from the technology surcharge, Willdan analyst Pierce Rossum said. The increase would bring in $520,000 more.

Willdan’s proposals were meant to be advisory, with the council deciding where it makes sense to add new fees and where it is better for General Fund money or other revenue streams to cover costs.

City Manager Jim Starbird said the fees most ripe for increases were those for “individualized” services — such as permit applications or private rental of city facilities — as opposed to fees for municipal services such as police and fire protection.

Fisher said the city can encourage or discourage certain activities through its application of fees. For example, he said, the city could charge its true costs for strapping down water heaters for earthquake safety, but residents might find the cost prohibitive, which would undermine public safety goals.

“You could charge the full amount of recovery for that, but then no one will do it,” Fisher said.

The Willdan report compared the city’s fee structure to those in Pasadena, Burbank and other Southland cities. Glendale’s existing fees for film permits, library services and document reproduction are generally lower than in other cities, according to the report, while its charge for public-works-related permits is higher.

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