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Council Scrutinizes City Administrative Fees

Vice Mayor Ron Leone commends staff for holding the line on many fees.

The City Council had an extended discussion of administrative fees Tuesday night as it reviewed the tentative 2011-12 budget, which is due to be adopted June 28 in time for the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1.

“It’s very unusual for government to keep the same or lower fees, in any level of government,” said Vice Mayor Ron Leone. “I look down this document and I see that most of the administrative fees are actually lowered,” he said, citing lower fees for seasonal vendors (such as Christmas trees and pumpkins).

“I think the public should feel very assured that the city of Concord is doing a good job of trying to keep the costs down,” he said. “We’re not trying to soak anybody. We’re trying to help them.”

Leone commended the city staff for putting together an “impressive” budget. The other four members of the council also thanked city staff for their efforts on the budget.

Leone did note small increases in appeal fees, such as for the planning commission or design review board, and urged staff to be cautious about hikes.

Peggy Lefebvre, director of finance, said some fees rise based on fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index. Others are driven by city employee costs, and some of those went down in the last year with reduced staff in some areas and less staff time spent.

Councilman Tim Grayson expressed concern that fees went up for commercial property owners building developments or adding square footage.

“We need the businesses to come in and generate revenue,” he said. “I ask the staff to take a look at this.”

Mayor Laura Hoffmeister said that if one compares some of Concord’s fees to other cities, “I think you’ll be shocked to see how low we are.”

She said she was against lowering offsite street improvement fees because otherwise there would be more subsidy from the general fund, and the city would be putting a burden on taxpayers for development costs such as the widening of roads to accommodate large projects.

Another option, Hoffmeister said, was the use of redevelopment fees, as city officials anxiously watch the debates in Sacramento about future cuts or elimination of local redevelopment agencies.

For a discussion of fees, see attachment 4 in this memo.

The proposed 2011-12 budget shows expenditures of $172.1 million, up from $168.8 million in the adopted 2010-11 budget, a one-year increase of 1.97 percent (also a big decrease from the peak budget year of $207.7 million in 2009-10).

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