Going up!

If the county Board of Supervisors elects to follow the advice of a report it commissioned a few months ago, the fees the county charges for everything from inspecting home repairs to creating subdivision maps are about to get much, much steeper.

Although the figures included in the report—compiled by consulting firm Maximus Inc.—are only estimates of what each service actually costs the county to provide, they must have some developers clutching at their chests—and their wallets. Under the report’s “full-cost recovery” approach, many fees would double, triple or even quintuple. If the county were to decide to recover the full cost of issuing, say, a “legal-lot determination,” it would have to charge $1,213 instead of the $160 it charges now. For a “right-of-way abandonment,” the fee would jump from the current $50 to the proposed $1,469.

That would happen only if the board decides to recoup the full cost of each permit, which isn’t likely to happen in every case. But because the county is faced with a very tight budget this year, it’s almost a sure bet that most of the fees will go up. As Richvale Supervisor Curt Josiassen noted, the county is subsidizing building permits alone to the tune of $1.1 million from the general fund. With next year’s state budget already promising to hit the county hard, that money could go to providing services that otherwise would have to be cut.

In presenting the report to the board Tuesday, county Deputy Administrator Cyndi Mann reminded those present that most fees had not gone up in more than a decade. She also pointed out that, in that time, the county’s costs for labor, materials and other factors had risen dramatically.

Some of the board members were skeptical, however. Josiassen wondered aloud why there was no comparative analysis done as to how Butte County’s fees stacked up against other counties'. He also was concerned that the departments involved might not be working in the most efficient way possible, which would account for some of the huge discrepancy between the costs users pay for services and what it costs the county to provide them.

“How do we make sure we’re being as efficient as we could be?” he asked. “It’s one thing to raise the fees, but if we can’t get a person through the door and provide that service, where’s the value to the community?”

Ever the taxpayer watchdog, Paradise Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi questioned whether the fee increase amounted to a form of “double taxation.” But before anyone could answer, Chico’s Jane Dolan snapped, “I don’t pay taxes just so someone can get a free ride on a building permit.”

The debate over which fees will go up (and how much) will be taken up at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m.