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LEMOORE — At its June 20 regular meeting, the Lemoore City Council held a public hearing to discuss the city’s master user fee schedule – like how much a garage sale permit costs or the cost of fingerprints at the police department – and there are a number of proposed changes 

Assistant City Manager Michelle Speer said the city entered an agreement one year ago with IGService — a project consulting company — to conduct a master user fee study.

Speer said the fees are applied to services performed in every department in the city in order to recoup costs for providing those services. Review of various city services and fees is used for revenue management, and also to ensure equitable pricing for services and offerings by the city.

Additionally, the reviews provide an opportunity for the city to analyze programs, facilities, services and add categories for new or revised offerings. If a fee for a service is not listed on the master user fee schedule, then the city cannot charge residents, Speer said. This is the first time Lemoore’s master user fees are being reviewed in many years.

For this review, Dan Bergmann of IGService conducted a comprehensive analysis, resulting in many substantial changes to the master user fee schedule. Some fees have been increased from this review, but many remain unchanged, and some were even lowered or removed.

“This is the completion of months of effort on the master user fees,” Bergmann said to council, adding there were around 200 services he had to analyze.

Bergmann said most of the cost of service analysis and changes come from building permits and inspections, and public works fees. With regard to the other categories — parks and recreation, police, facilities and miscellaneous — he said many of the fees are similar to what they were in the previous master user fee schedule.

“Some of the old [fees] we removed, some new ones we added,” Bergmann said. “The fees in these categories do not have that much of an effect on the general fund.”

An example includes lowering the cost of a garage sale permit from $6.50 to $5. Bergmann said this was because garage sale permits are “not going to make that much difference,” but the city still wants people to get a permit.

Bergmann said some of the factors he considered while analyzing the fees were whether they are obsolete or if new fees are needed, whether it is a public service, the level of activity the fee receives and, most importantly, the cost of service.

There was no increase in fees for facility rental fees, including the indoor recreation center. The discount for nonprofit organizations actually increased to 30 percent.

An example of a new fee in the police department is a $20 fee for Livescan fingerprinting, which was not on the master schedule before.

Residential solar installation is one of the building project permit fees that will see a significant increase. Bergmann told council that revenue to the city from solar permits is the “single largest contributor” to all the permits the city issues.

The present permit fee for solar installation is $125. If the proposed master user fee schedule is adopted, that fee will raise to $430. The maximum fee the state allows for this is $500, Bergmann said.

The result of the solar permit fee increasing from $125 to $430 will be an anticipated increase of $90,000 per year based on 2016 activity. The overall increase in revenue from increased building permits is anticipated to be $130,000 to $170,000 per year, Bergmann said.

From the fees associated with the planning and public works departments, Bergmann said he expects a $50,000 to $100,000 per year increase in revenue for the city, which would help with the general fund balance.

Councilman Dave Brown had a few problems with some of the fee increases he saw, particularly the fee for a water heater replacement increasing from $27 to $140 and roof inspections increasing from $42 to $140.

Bergmann told Brown that those particular fees had not been increased in a long time, so they are just catching up with current prices.

Examples of other big changes include conditional use permits for new construction increasing from $1,740 to $3,400 and lot line adjustment fees increasing from $815 to $1,700. A new fee that was not in the previous master user fee schedule includes commercial parcel map review of more than four lots costing $3,900.

The motion to approve the new master user fee schedule was passed with a 3-2 vote, with “yes” votes from Mayor Ray Madrigal and Councilmembers Jeff Chedester and Holly Blair, and “no” votes from Councilmembers Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal.

Bergmann said there’s a provision that allows for an annual cost of service increase to the fees so they can increase consistently with inflation as the years go by. Interim City Manager Nathan Olson reminded council they can always pass ordinances in the future to change fees as they see fit.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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