The Fresno City Council on Thursday will be asked to raise a bunch of city taxes and create a bunch of new ones.
The chore lands on the council dais two days after the 2018 general election. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Maybe not.
The proposed hikes/additions (and some deletions/reductions), coming from the Administration of Mayor Lee Brand, are an item on the consent calendar. That means they’ll receive no public comment from the dais unless a council member pulls the proposal for further discussion. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Maybe not.
I’m talking about changes to the city’s Master Fee Schedule. The schedule is full of fees for service and fines. Fee, assessment, fine, surcharge, rate – they’re all taxes, in my book. You, Mr. and Ms. Fresno, pay them. And, in certain situations, you could soon be paying more.
Says the staff report to the council:
“The annual revision of the MFS (Master Fee Schedule) is being presented at this time to enable adjustments approved by Council to be incorporated into the planning of next year’s budget. Staff will proceed with estimating revenues for FY 2020 based on the adoption of these updates to the schedule.”
The effective date for many of the changes would be July 1, 2019, says the staff report.
Here are several of the proposed changes:
1.) The Art, Park, Entertainment & Sports fee currently is $1 at the Convention Center and $1.50 at Chukchansi Park. Under the amended MFS, the $1 fee would apply to tickets sold at all city-owned facilities. The stadium APES fee would rise to $1.55. The APES fee at the Memorial Auditorium is 75 cents; it would rise to $1. Bumps to the AEPS fee typically are passed along to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices.
2.) To rent the City Council Chamber currently costs $75 an hour with a two-hour minimum. That hourly rate would decrease to $55 an hour with a two-hour minimum. The rental rates of many other rooms at City Hall would change, as well. The second-floor lobby rate would go from $50 to $65 an hour. The fourth-floor lobby currently has no rate; the new rate would be $35 an hour. These and other rate changes/additions would be effective upon adoption of the amended Master Fee Schedule.
3.) There will be changes to other services connected to City Hall rentals. For example, the hourly cost of a custodian would rise from $15.50 to $30. For a security guard, it would rise from $18.50 to $32.70 an hour. A new fee – “after hours City Hall access” would be added. This would be $79.50 an hour. These would become effective immediately.
4.) Several hikes to green fees at Riverside Golf Course are proposed. For example, Seniors (62 and older) would be asked to pay $17.25 for per round, a bump of 75 cents from the current $16.50, effective Jan. 1. The staff report says these hikes are part of the contract that enables the company leasing and operating Big Muni to keep pace with inflation. (The hike for Seniors is 4.5%; my Social Security check doesn’t increase 4.5% a year. What’s going on here?)
5.) Over in the code enforcement division, we’re looking at a new fee for something called “pre-compliance re-inspection.” That would be $50 per unit. And there would be a new fee for “compliance re-inspection.” That would be $100 per unit. These would be effective immediately.
Says the staff report:
“In February 2017 the City enacted the Rental Housing Improvement Act. At that point in time, the MFS was updated to include a Rental Housing Health and Safety Inspection Fee. As part of the annual revision, DARM is proposing the addition of a $100 Compliance Re-Inspection Fee and a $50 Pre-Compliance Re-Inspection Fee. For those rental units that do not pass the initial inspection, a written correction notice is issue containing a scheduled re-inspection date and time by which violations must be corrected. Property owners who are timely and ready for re-inspection at least seven days prior to their scheduled compliance re-inspection date can request a Pre-Compliance Re-Inspection at a reduced rate of $50.”
6.) The Police Department, to recover staffing costs, proposes new fees (effective immediately) for eight pre-established parade routes. Examples: Fulton — $5,703; Downtown — $5,456; City Hall loop — $2,673.
7.) The proposed changes in Parking are dizzying. To give you a taste of things that might come your way, the current fine for parking in a bicycle path, a bicycle zone and a crosswalk is currently $43. The fine for all three would rise to $100. The current fine for parking in a Transit Bus Zone is $258; that would rise to $500.
According to the staff report, the city in FY 2018 issued 294 citations for parking in a bicycle lane, path or zone. The city in FY 2018 issued seven citations for parking in a crosswalk. The city in FY 2018 issued 105 citations for parking in a Transit Bus Zone. The report recommends significantly higher fines in these and other areas of non-compliance with parking laws to get the attention of knuckleheads out there. It’s a public safety issue!
However, the overtime/expired parking meter fine of $33 is not changing, even though (according to the staff report) that is lower than in many peer cities. Says the staff report: “The violation is intentionally low because it is not intended to severely penalize individuals who make an occasional mistake.”