Money from fees that had previously slipped through the cracks might soon find their way back to the city’s coffers, depending on how the Crescent City Council votes at its meeting today.
Overlooked and outdated licensing and usage fees in the city’s schedule of fees, fines and penalties will be brought to the Council’s attention, and what action the Council ultimately takes could affect local businesses, facilities and vendors.
The proposed changes to the fee schedule, as recommended by the city finance and public works departments, will implement new fees as well as some older fees that were already on the schedule but weren’t being collected, according to City Manager Eugene Palazzo.
He said he didn’t know why certain fees had been overlooked but guessed it could have something to do with staff transitions over the years.
Also, outdated fees that are confusing or no longer relevant will be combined with other fees or eliminated in order to simplify the schedule, he said.
“We were evaluating the fee schedule, and there were a few items that came up,” Palazzo said. “We saw there were fees in there that we weren’t collecting and items that were outdated. We thought about what is it that we have and what are we doing and decided to not readopt the same thing year after year.”
Judging by the dozens of concerned letters and emails the city received, perhaps of most concern to community members are the proposed changes that would affect the Wednesday farmer’s market vendors. Those vendors, of which there were 22 at the end of the last season, would have to pay a proposed $20 annual business licensing fee according to their classification as a Class O merchant. The Saturday farmer’s market at the fairgrounds won’t see any fee implemented since the fairgrounds are a state agency and are exempt from local business taxes.
The $20 fee at the Wednesday market would be a decrease from an already on the books — but hitherto uncollected — $31 annual fee and a $10.50 daily fee, which were the were the ones that sparked the outpouring of public concern when initially announced a month ago. In its final report and in response to the concern, city staff recommended the reduced fee, describing the $31 and $10.50 fees as “overly burdensome to the vendors.”
Still, even the adjusted $20 fee and the additional business licensing paperwork is too much for some. Cheryl Corpstein, a board member for the Business Improvement District, which sponsors the market, said that three vendors decided to stop participating in the Wednesday event because of the new regulations and fees.
She said that the BID had pushed for a $15 annual licensing fee, pointing out that home businesses like Mary Kay salespeople only have to pay $15 — if that — for their licenses.
“It’s important to know who’s doing business in your city, but I think that 20 dollars is too high,” Corpstein said, adding that some home businesses, which she said are tougher to keep track of, don’t even have licenses or pay the fees. “I think you need to be fair. You shouldn’t target the farmer’s market just because you know where the vendors are.”
Fees support the various services that the city provides, Palazzo said, like cleaning up the parking lots, street sweeping, putting up barriers, as well as inspections.
“The city is basically charged the maintenance of the streets, parks, public restrooms —maintaing a clean environment,” Director of Finance Emily Boyd said.
Beyond the farmer’s market licensing fees, all applications for or renewal of a local business license or permit will be subject to a $1 state fee. That fee is in accordance with SB1186, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in September 2012.
Boyd said other changes to business license fees may be on the horizon, once the city’s municipal code is reviewed. According to the staff report, the municipal code, which outlines the classifications of businesses and how business licenses are to be administered, hasn’t been reviewed or updated since 1983. City staff recommended in its report that the Council direct staff to review the municipal code and create proposals for appropriate updates.
“I’m expecting them to direct us to do that,” Boyd said.
Other proposed fee implementations would affect usage and rental costs of the Fred Endert Municipal Pool and the Crescent City Cultural Center, as well as encroachment permit fees for performing work within the public right of way. These fees include:
• Fred Endert Municipal Pool: A proposed $2.50 per lesson increase in swimming lesson rates and a proposed $5 increase to hourly pool rental rates, according to Promote Our Pool recommendations based on what other pools on the North Coast charge.
• Cultural Center: A proposed $685 one-day rental fee and a proposed non-refundable $50 reservation fee. These fees consolidate a number of different older charges for items like kitchen use, setup, and cleanup. City staff also recommend removing fees for equipment that’s not available, like microphone, piano and dishes.
• Encroachment permit fees: The current fee — a flat $360 charge regardless of the kind of work or number of inspections being done — would be changed to a proposed $50 administration fee and an additional fee equal to 5 percent of the total value of the work. This is to better account for the magnitude of the work, according to the report, which says that as it stands now a contractor hired to replace 50 feet of sidewalk that only requires one inspection is paying the same fee that a contractor replacing a whole block of sidewalk requiring multiple inspections pays.
Additionally, in order to encourage and allow “building beautification” in the community, staff is recommending that certain right of way obstructions that last for less than 24 hours and focus on routine building cleaning or minor painting be charged no fee. Projects that last for more than a day would have to pay a proposed $50 administrative fee.
Palazzo said the baseball field at Peterson Park might also be subject to some fee changes, but those details haven’t been assessed yet. The staff report recommends that the $30 field preparation fee currently in place be eliminated from the schedule until an assessment of fees for all sport events held in the parks can be performed. That’ll probably take place in the fall, Palazzo said. And after that, there’s always next year’s annual fee schedule tweaking.
“We’re all looking at things a little more comprehensively,” Palazzo said. “I’m guessing next year something else is going to pop up that we didn’t see this year and we’re going to question and decide that ‘yeah, we probably need to address that.’”
The Crescent City Council will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Flynn Center at 981 H Street in Crescent City.