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December 9, 2009 > City increases fees, waits to discuss swim team fees

City increases fees, waits to discuss swim team fees

By Dustin Findley

Milpitas Municipal Code and fiscal policy require regular review of service charges and program fees to ensure they are current and adequately recover the costs of City services.

Finance Department must ensure fully loaded costs are consistent with the Cost Allocation Study, approved by Council in 2007, when reviewing fee calculations. Typically, fully loaded costs include the direct cost of the program and indirect costs, such as fixed asset recovery, department overheads and general administration.

Police
The cost of towing vehicles accounts mainly for increases charged by the Police Department. These fees have not been adjusted since April 2000. The Finance Subcommittee recommended an increase to 75 percent of cost recovery; this equates to $346 in the first tier of a three-tier fee schedule.

The first-tier fee is $346 for towing any vehicle because the driver has a suspended license, no license or is using the vehicle to commit a crime. The second-tier fee is $50 for dealing with illegally parked vehicles and less time-consuming issues. No fee will be charged for towing if the driver is not at fault and unable to drive, e.g. a traffic accident requiring the driver to go to hospital.

Under the first tier, the driver would pay the city $346, the initial towing fee (up to $170), and storage fees (up to $50 daily) for the vehicle.

In most cases of an expired license, the police will not tow the vehicle.

Fire Department
The Fire Department proposes a new permit automation fee to recover the costs associated with changes to its inspection records management system. It includes costs for database conversion, software programming, hardware and maintenance.

The changes will streamline the inspection and plan check process. The public will be able to view historical information and schedule inspections online. The Fire Department will have upgraded technology and satisfy the state mandate to provide hazardous-material emergency response information to firefighters round the clock.

The fee would apply to all permit and inspection activities including all hazardous materials and life safety permits and inspections for new construction.

The permit or inspection fee, based on five-year amortization of computer equipment and software maintenance, will be $6.77 and would require council approval to extend it beyond five years.

Public Works
Public Works has a one-time, water meter-acquisition and installation fee, charged when a parcel is initially developed. Typically, it would apply to developers or customers who request larger meters. These fees were last adjusted in July 2006.

The fee does not apply to replacement of defective or worn out meters, so does not impact the average homeowner. The meter acquisition fee covers the purchase cost of the meter from the manufacturer and is a "pass through" cost.

The installation fee is based on the City's labor estimate - an hour for Public Works maintenance staff to install the meter and 30 minutes' clerical support.

A meter for a typical single family home costs $60-$200 on a $500,000 development.

Building Department
Building Department fees, adopted in August 2004, are based on the average time for plan checks and inspections for various sized projects.

Fee increases were not requested for the residential water heater replacement, furnace and photovoltaic solar systems to promote this program,

Milpitas' building fees are below the average set by neighboring cities surveyed.

Planning
The Planning and Engineering Department wishes to change the flat fees for nine applications, such as minor building, site modification and building signs, to the Milpitas private job account system.

There is also a need for greater flexibility for project deposits; fee collection before the project starts is preferable to pursuit of fees after the project is complete.

Parks and Recreation
Facility and program fees have not been adjusted since the 1990s and will increase to reflect higher costs and improvements to the Milpitas Tidal Waves swim program.

Higher allotment fees at the Cesar Chavez Community Garden are also planned. Milpitas residents will see an increase from $30 to $60 annually; non-residents will pay $90 instead of $45. Seniors will continue to pay $15.

The average for similar garden plots is $74.80 per year. Milpitas plots are comparatively larger than those in other cities.

The Milpitas Tidal Waves swim program costs the city $212,000 per year. Personnel accounts for $210,000 which includes a head coach and four assistants. Supplies total $2,500 and USA registration to compete costs $345. These figures exclude maintenance of pool facilities.

Current revenue of $57,000 equates approximately to 27 percent cost recovery. Milpitas Tidal Waves charges $50 per month for swimmers at beginner, intermediate and senior levels.

Staff proposed a monthly fee of $100 for all three levels. Projected revenue of $121,000 would inprove cost recovery to 57 percent.

The monthly, non-resident fee could also rise from $20 to $50. Non-residents account for around 20 percent of visitors. Moreover, pool size and available hours mean swim-team enrolment is limited to 100 swimmers who are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Community members at the public hearing described the Milpitas Tidal Waves fee increase as too large and too sudden. One speaker called it an "outrageous increase."

Council approved the proposed master fee adjustments for various city services and programs except the Milpitas Tidal Waves. This item will be carried forward to the meeting on January 5, 2010.

For more information and a fee schedule, visit www.ci.milpitas.ca.gov

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