City considers raising fees, introducing others

CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday moved ahead with a range of fee hikes for public services, from pet registration to building permits, to help generate more revenue for the beleaguered General Fund.

Among the changes are $10 boosts in dog licensing fees, roughly doubling the current $707 application fee for going through the design review process for single-family projects and raising the fees associated with police responses to repeated false alarms.

City officials recommended the fee increases to better recapture the cost of providing various city services based on the results of a study prepared by consulting firm Wildan Financial Services.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure they’re current,” Finance Director Bob Elliot said Tuesday.

City Council members have worked for weeks to fill a projected $18 million budget shortfall in the city’s General Fund, which pays for basic public services like parks and police services, by the beginning of the fiscal year in July.

The fee increases, which also include some additions, are forecast to generate at least $1.2 million in additional revenue, officials said. Other budget strategies include maintaining a hiring freeze for vacant positions and roughly $4.1 million in cuts to city services.

The fees, while built into the budget, will require separate City Council approval next month.

While City Council members indicated support for many of the increases, they held off on endorsing new fees for inspections of multi-family residential properties and so-called “point-of-sale” inspections — both of which city officials said would likely attract the ire of the real estate community.

Under the proposal, a $28 fee would be added to multifamily residential rental property tax bills to help fund the city’s code enforcement programs, while residential property owners would have to get a $505 code-compliance inspection whenever a property is sold.

“Given their significance and the volatility of them in the community, they should be handled separately from the general fee ordinance,” said City Manager Jim Starbird.

But council members did express interest in creating a fee for applicants seeking an expedited process through the city’s design review process. The fee, which could run to several thousand dollars, would pay for the program, but not generate additional revenue, officials said.

“This is something that’s coming from our customers that they want,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “So I think it’s worth trying it.”

While some on the council expressed hesitation with moving ahead with the revised fee structure, others were ready to move forward.

“We do have the ability to adjust the fee structure again,” Councilman Dave Weaver said. “We don’t need to be perfect in this today. The public will let us know.”

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