Supervisors eye slew of fee changes

Although they took no formal action Tuesday on raising hundreds of county fees, the Board of Supervisors signaled that when they do act on them at a hearing in three weeks the discussion could be lively.

“I don’t know why we’re even adjusting fees,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said.

He noted that fees have continued to increase over the years, and said he had particular concerns about fees in the planning and building department.

However, Supervisor Adam Hill said that of the thousands of fee proposals from county staff members, nearly two-thirds kept fees at their current level. Those that might go up are increasing in order to cover costs, Hill said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson joined Mecham in expressing concern about appeals fees in the planning department. He said he did not want to dissuade people who feel they have been wronged by a government decision from appealing because it cost too much.

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

Supervisors will have a full hearing on them on Nov. 24.

Among the other changes suggested are:

• Parks: Eighty-five 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 cases 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 be 15 cents a day up to $8.

The proposed fee schedule can be viewed in its entirety in a staff report on the county Web site.