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City of Santa Maria proposing to raise user fees

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 23, 2021

The City of Santa Maria is looking into raising dozens of user fees to recover losses over the years.

On Tuesday, the city held the first of two workshops where officials broke down the recommendations being made.

"The motivation for this is we haven't raised our user fees in 15 years. We have been adjusting them for inflation annually but in some cases, the cost of providing the service has skyrocketed,” Santa Maria Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp said.

A consultant hired by the City of Santa Maria is recommending most fees be increased and taxpayer subsidies eliminated as the city’s costs to provide some services have risen over the years.

“The consultant is saying you really should run your city like a business because if you don't, you won't be in business much longer,” van de Kamp said.

In the 600-page report, the consultant lays out the current fees for more than 200 city services like fire alarm inspections, building plan reviews, and business license applications versus a suggested fee that will help the city add about $3 million annually in revenue.

For example, right now, the city is charging a certain site development service at $1,296 per application. The fee suggested by the consultant is about $5,000.

Some residents said although they sympathize with the city, the thought of higher fees doesn't sit well.

"I understand that because times are tough for cities because people are not spending much money but also, people are having a tough time because there's a lot of people out of work, there's a lot of people only working part-time,” Orcutt resident Melvin Parker said.

This leaves the council to decide who should pay for the services.

That's why the city is encouraging people who would like to express concerns or simply ask questions to attend the next workshop and be heard.

“This is the time for people to weigh in and do their part. It's a good lesson in civics and explain here's what I think the city should do,” van de Kamp said.

City officials say no decision is being made anytime soon. They are hoping the city council can finalize a decision by July.

The next workshop meeting is set for March 11 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

For more information, contact the Finance Department at (805) 925-0951, extension 2215