County proposes fee for merchants selling tobacco

One-third of the stores that sold tobacco products in 2008 have stopped doing so, and the remaining tobacco merchants would have to pick up the tab to monitor them under a proposal going before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The number of outlets went from 78 to 58 in the unincorporated county — those areas not within a city limit.

The county pays staff members to regulate tobacco sales, and to make that program break even, stores that still sell the product should absorb a fee increase of $54, or 14 percent, according to Nikki Schmidt of the County Administrator’s Office. That would bring the cost to $394 per retail license.

Supervisors will introduce this and other proposed fees Tuesday, and hold a full hearing on them on Nov. 24.

County departments reviewed 3,191 fees. Department heads are recommending that 2,043 remain unchanged, 236 increase and 280 decrease. They want to introduce 51 new fees and drop 581.

Among the other changes suggested are:

• Golf: While 77 fees will remain unchanged, six others, all related to golf cart rental, could increase by 50 cents to $1.

• Parks: Eighty-five of 108 fees would not change. Nine could be eliminated as the county streamlines its camping fee structure to two rates — base and high-use. Ten fees could increase because of extra staff time needed to guard against quagga mussels. Yearly passes for boats would jump from $80 to $100.

• Agricultural Commissioner: The fee for processing a minor use permit would drop by $91, “due to a reduction in staff time required to provide this service.”

• Airport: At the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport, vehicles that have access to the airfield could have to pay $10 more, from $35 to $45.

• Animal shelter: The impound discount for owners whose animals have a current license would disappear, shifting the cost back to the owner. Twenty seven of 79 fees would increase, with the average boost being $23. A pet shop permit fee would rise from $275 to $360 a year.

• Killing livestock: For the first time, Animal Services will ask the Board of Supervisors to suggest a fee for euthanizing livestock. It has a fee schedule for “owner-requested euthanasia” of pet animals, rabbits and rodents.

• Planning: Appeals fees on Planning and Building Department decisions would jump in some case by as much as hundreds of dollars, and the cost of removing property from an agricultural preserve also would increase.

• Sheriff-Coroner: The department would add two fees: a low-level urine test for drug-endangered children; and a rave and rape drug screen urine test, at $179.

There are thousands of other recommendations, ranging from hundreds of dollars down to the library late fee for children’s books, which would now be 15 cents a day up to $8.

The full proposed fee schedule can be viewed in a 314-page staff report on the county Web site.

In her message to supervisors, Schmidt wrote that fees help “offset the cost of providing county services to those who benefit from services that exceed basic tax-supported services.”

Money from fees and permits makes up approximately 11 percent of the county’s revenue, she wrote.

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