The Murrieta City council approved some changes to its user fee schedule and delayed other increases until 2019 at its Jan. 16 city council meeting.
As most municipalities do, the city charges for various permits and inspections to offset the cost of providing these services.
A recent review of the city’s fee schedule determined that it was undercharging for some services. The last time such a review took place was in 2009.
With the new changes, most of which will go into effect July 2, the majority of the fees will remain roughly the same, with only minor adjustments up or down. But some fees will ultimately see significant increases, though those changes will be delayed until next year.
The fees addressed at the council meeting cover everything from housing development plans to sports field usage.
And the adjustments are just as varied.
The fee for a new housing development plan will go up from about $5,000 to more than $7,000, but the fee for a tentative tract map will drop by nearly the same amount, from $12,000 to $10,000.
Prices for business license background checks will drop from $282 to $170.
In some cases, entirely new fees will be created. The city will soon charge for tennis court lighting during evening usage at a rate of $7.50 per hour.
In other cases, fees could go up by drastic amounts. Some kinds of commercial projects could see fee hikes from a little less than $3,000 to more than $9,000 – though they would remain below the prices in other nearby cities, which charge thousands more for the same projects.
Still, the potential increases presented by city staff were enough to prompt concern from council members.
“My opinion is that when you go four or five (times) from current to new and say this starts in six months, it sounds like it could possibly cause a systemic shock,” Councilman Rick Gibbs said at the meeting.
But it’s a difficult balance, the council decided, as failing to charge the proper amount would mean drawing from the city’s general fund and preventing the money from being allocated elsewhere. Fees are required by state law to be no higher than the actual cost for the city to provide the service.
“If there’s fees that are so much that it is discouraging industrial development or manufacturing or any of those other things, then we wind up never developing that general fund money that balances us out,” Councilman Kelly Seyarto said.
The council voted to delay all fee increases for building and safety of more than four times the current amounts until Jan. 2, 2019. All other fee increases will go into effect in July. Discussion for fee increases for single-family homes will be delayed until Feb. 6.