By Daniel Ritz
During their meeting on May 15, City Council held a budget workshop where they reviewed two ongoing projects. They first reviewed formal city financial policies concerning long-term financial planning, operating budget, reserves, infrastructure asset management and facilities asset management. Secondly, the Council reviewed and made suggestions to city staff concerning a previously approved decision to establish full cost recovery for some mandatory fees. In January, City Council adopted the first ever User Fee Subsidy Policy.
“Fees should be set such that no subsidy is provided unless City Council determines there is a benefit to the greater public that goes beyond the benefit provided to the individual receiving the service,” a staff report said. “Stated differently, the policy establishes a practice of timely evaluation of fees, and resultant adjustments, such that full cost recovery is achieved unless a specific service is subsidized by the city’s general taxes.”
Mayor Richard Viczorek and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Muller both voiced their disapproval of this policy, but acknowledged that it was already passed and that they were moving forward.
Muller proposed a five-year timeline for unrolling new fees in order to study appropriate fee and subsidy rates.
Councilmember Debra Lewis opposed, saying that the policy called for immediate 100 percent fee recovery.
“It would be an insult to our planning and building commissions to not support their hard work (by implementing this policy immediately),” said Councilmember Paul Wyatt.
Councilmember John Tomlinson, who initially proposed a middle-ground of the unrolling of new fees over three years, asked Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew for his thoughts. Killebrew is largely responsible for the city’s financial maintenance.
“My opinion,” Killebrew said, “is to act at the suggestion of the Council.”
The vote to unroll the fees, some of which will increase more than 100 percent over three years, passed 3-2 with Councilmembers Wyatt and Lewis dissenting.
City Manager Mark Denny said with the Council’s suggestion, city staff will return with a more complete timeline at the June 19 meeting. A list of the complete fees and subsidies can be seen here.