Board rejects fee increases for now

September 03, 2003 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Despite assertions that some departments are underpaid, Calaveras County supervisors aren't ready to implement an increase in fees for county services.

At a study session yesterday, supervisors talked about raising fees charged for various county services, such as applying for building permits or getting permits to install underground storage tanks.

Last week, the board received a memo from county Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell saying some departments are underpaid for their services and that some fees haven't been increased since the early 1980s.

Each department head gave Mitchell a list of current fees and proposed increases. For example, the Planning Department now charges $250 for a permit to build a second house on a property, but is asking the board to approve an increase to $425.

Most of the proposed increases were in the planning, public works and environmental health departments, but Mitchell recommended raising all fees by a rate similar to the raises given to county employees. Supervisors approved 3 percent raises for county employees last October and also 3.5 percent raises effective next month.

Mitchell said his office should keep a master list of all fees charged by departments and revise it annually.

Supervisor Tom Tryon was the first to express disapproval of the plan. He said county services should not be viewed as "services," because they are mandatory for endeavors such as building a house or starting a business.

"I'm not at all in favor of an autopilot for fee increases," Tryon said.

Supervisor Victoria Erickson said the county could probably get by without charging for 100 percent of its costs. Supervisor Lucy Thein suggested raising the smaller fees but not the larger ones.

"It's not a good time to do it at budget time," District 2 Supervisor Paul Stein said. The county's final budget hearings started this morning.