Camarillo City Council Lowers User Fees

By Logan McFadden

The City Council unanimously approved a new User Fee Schedule at its Wednesday, May 13th meeting. Out of 160 fees, 155 were decreased. NBS Consultants was hired to recalibrate fees based upon current labor and overhead costs. NBS Consultants provides a very thorough and quantifiable review based upon direct input of staff. NBS has industry data used for comparison against Camarillo’s fee schedule. The following departments were reviewed:
• Community Development
• Building (Contract/City Cost Analysis)
• Public Works/Engineering
• Police
• City Clerk
• Finance

Not included in the fee calculation are taxes, fines, development impact fees and utility rates. User fees do not exceed 100% of the cost to provide the service. Vice Mayor Mike Morgan stated the city is “reducing fees like crazy”. Depending upon the service provided, fees were reduced from one dollar to thousands of dollars. Developer fees are separate from user fees and were not adjusted.

All non-development fees went into effect on May 14, 2015. All remaining fees will become effective on July 14th. In May 2016, the fees will be reviewed for labor costs and reviewed in a Council study session.

The City continues to set fees at the level to maintain 100% cost recovery. The services benefit private residents and the applicable fees are not drawn from the general fund.

During time set aside for public comments, Matt Lorimer stated that developers are utilizing city staff to the point that small business owners experience delays in permit approvals. He also pointed out that the city was not including examples of revised user fees as part of the presentation. Mike Morgan held up the fee schedule and invited Mr. Lorimer to review the specifics. Mr. Morgan stated that Camarillo’s user fees are very fair compared with other cities.

Councilmember Kevin Kildee pointed out that the lower fees are in part attributed to staff turnover. Personnel with higher salaries have retired and were replaced with new staff at lower salaries. The City Manager, Bruce Feng, said that several contracts with city vendors have been re-negotiated at lower rates. Additionally the staff is continually improving efficiency which cuts labor cost. The City recently made major changes in personnel and implemented a new organizational structure to save money. Mr. Kildee is a business owner and finds Camarillo to be a very business friendly. He also commented that a fee study will be done annually going forward which should smooth out the peaks and valleys of fees charged for services.

Councilmember Jan McDonald emphasized that the fees are not arbitrary, but calculated using a fairly complicated model. Councilmember Charlotte Craven assured residents that people who do not use the City’s services are not paying for them via taxes.

Mayor Bill Little observed that some services are for the public benefit which should be a factor in billing less than 100% of the cost. He made the same point last year when fees were increased, however, he voted with the majority to accept the recommended user fees.

Logan McFadden is a city reporter and a recently retired banker, residing in Camarillo. He volunteers for the Heritage Action Sentinel team and serves as the AMAC Delegate to the 26th Congressional District and a Convention of States District Captain.

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