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As cost of doing business, city to hike fees

Auburn City Council members on Monday increased fees for city applications and services across the board, affecting everything from transportation impact fees to plan reviews to rental rates for Parks, Arts and Recreation buildings.

City officials said the increases, reflecting adjustments to the cost of living, were necessary to show the actual cost of doing business.

And after some 15 minutes of polite disagreements, council members adopted the resolution on a five-to-two vote, with council members Sue Singer and Virginia Haugen dissenting.

The changes will be effective Jan. 9.

Singer found the increases poorly timed in the current state of the economy.

And she questioned the rationale.

“I don’t have a problem with the COLA (3½ percent cost of living adjustment) and astronomical increases in the transportation costs – those fees are being passed on,” Singer said.

“I have a philosophical problem with increasing single-family home costs by many dollars right now when the industry is in a free fall. Maybe in a few months it will make more sense to me, but with what’s going on out there in the housing industry, I think it’s bad public policy to increase the fees so much and add more to the burden that has to be paid early on.”

Singer said things had changed since she was first a member of the City Council.

“This is a change in philosophy for the city … to basically nickel and dime anybody that comes to the city for services to make sure we have every penny,” Singer said.

Councilman Bill Peloza said he had studied the increases and concluded that they reflected the city’s costs of performing the services.

“We must charge what it costs to do business,” Peloza said. “That’s the way it is. If we didn’t raise fees, we would be charging incorrect fee amounts for these services and go in the hole.”

Peloza said that the city is working with a consultant to review all the fees and should receive information by the end of the year that would allow up or down adjustments.

Public Works Director Dennis Dowdy said it had been two years since the city adjusted the transportation impact fees.

As for the congestion fee, Dowdy said, rather than the flat consumer price index, the city went back and looked at bidding prices and the skyrocketing cost of asphalt.

“We looked at the last two years of bidding experience to come up with about a 7 percent adjustment on that,” Dowdy said. “On the truck impact fees, we added three capital projects that were not in the (Transportation Improvement Plan) at the time we adopted it almost two years ago. There are no new fees, we just adjusted them for the cost of living,” Dowdy said.

“I hope we continue being a friendly city,” said Councilman Gene Cerino. “I would hope that our people in planning and parks are making an effort to reduce the number of times they have to review the plans. I hear complaints. We have an obligation to our community to be as efficient as possible in doing these kinds of things … We need to be a user-friendly city.”

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Sampling of the adjusted fees

• Hearing examiner decision appeal: $1,000 application fee plus hourly charge for hearing examiner

• Plat alteration (application fee covers one meeting with staff after which additional meeting fees apply): $1,000 per request

• Police report-collision report (fee not charged where requested by victim or party involved): increase from $12.50 to $13.25.

• Rental housing business license fees: from $51.50 to $53 per year

• Custom maps (any non existing map): $25

• Rental of Les Gove building: 3-hour minimum: $15 an hour for residents, $20 an hour for non-residents

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