Higher fees, please
City Finance Committee passes proposed rate increase to council
The city of Chico Finance Committee agreed Tuesday (May 28) to send a consideration to increase the city’s service fees to the full City Council in June.
Chris Constantin, the city’s new administrative-services director, reported that part of the city’s bleeding budget is due to the fact that fees collected do not cover the costs of providing services. Frank Fields, the city accounting manager, told the committee—made up of City Council members Scott Gruendl, Randall Stone and Sean Morgan (sitting in for Mark Sorensen)—that although most of the fees have automatic inflators, a jump “outside the normal increase” is needed at this time.
The city is facing a $4.8 million deficit and City Manager Brian Nakamura told the committee he wants to make $7 million in cuts over the next fiscal year.
The list of fee increases under consideration included special-events liability insurance, loan processing for the housing-mortgage subsidy program, parking-ticket fines, administrative fines, animal-service fees and sewer fees.
Fields told the committee that there’d been a request to remove the parking-ticket increase for separate consideration, which is not surprising in view of the ongoing controversy that surrounds downtown parking.
“This is seen as a barrier to people coming to the downtown area,” Constantin said.
The motive for the parking-fine increase, he said in a report included with the Finance Committee agenda packet, is not to generate money but to “deter offenders from continuing the behavior for which those penalties and fees are assessed. Increasing the penalties and fines encourages the compliance with city rules and regulations …”
He said the fiscal impact is unknown because, ideally, increased parking fines are designed to act as a deterrent to parking violations within the city.
The proposed parking-fine increases would boost a meter violation from the current $29 to $32; parking by a fire hydrant would jump from $137 to $162; and parking in a red zone would cost a whopping $338, up from the current fine of $42.
There are 40 possible ways to violate the city’s parking rules, including parking in a bus zone (currently $309, would rise to $338), parking in an alley ($24, to $26), and parking in a bikeway ($125, to $148). Staying in a two-hour space for more than two hours, even with the meter paid, would cost $26 instead of $24.
The only parking fine that would remain the same is parking in a handicapped spot without a handicapped sticker ($338).
Chico resident and business owner Mike Trolinder described the city’s parking enforcement as “predatory.”
“Something is broken here,” he said. “Are the tickets based on fairness?”
He compared the city’s parking management to what he considers is its unnecessary focus on issues “like marijuana and plastic bags.”
City Manager Nakamura acknowledged the controversy, but pointed out there was also public pressure to enforce parking laws, and asked rhetorically if the city’s approach was “predatory or complaint-driven.”
“Some want us to be proactive so we can move cars around [to open up parking spaces],” he said.
Councilman Morgan also noted the divisiveness that surrounds the downtown parking issue and said it was time for city officials to hold a serious discussion. General Services Director Ruben Martinez said the matter has been well-researched, noting his office has a stack of studies on downtown parking that is 10- to 12-inches high.
The discussion moved onto the other suggested fee increases that will be put before the full council at its June budget meeting.
Gruendl pointed out that any city-fee increase has to be in compliance with Prop. 26, which requires the fees cover specific costs of providing service, rather than generate revenue.
The special-events liability insurance fee is what the city charges while acting as an insurance broker between those putting on an event in a city street or park and an insurance company called HUB International. The insurance covers liabilities introduced by things like bounce houses and pony rides; as it has annually over the past few years, the rate is again slated to go up 50 cents, to $33, to cover staff time.
Other fees that are marked for increase include those to reimburse the city for costs associated with helping a resident who’s received a city mortgage-subsidy loan. The only increase will be loan-payoff recording fees, which would go from $22 to $41.
Administrative fine increases include those issued at parties deemed “disorderly events”—those will jump from $266 to $300 for a first offense, $532 to $600 for a second offense, and $1,064 to $1,200 for a third offense. The same rate increase is suggested for noise-ordinance violations.
Park violations—including dogs off-leash, feeding of wild animals, riding a bike on a skateboard track, and loitering on a bridge or spillway—would all go up from $37 to $75 for a first offense, $58 to $150 for a second offense, and $112 to $300 for a third offense.
On the other hand, animal-shelter fees are a mixed bag. Adopting a dog would drop from $39 to $35 and adopting a cat would go from $37.50 to $31.50. Micro-chipping, however, would jump from $19.50 to $24.50. All other fees at the shelter would remain the same.