Almanac

News - March 24, 2010

City may hike fees for services

by Sean Howell

One of the dozens and dozens of city services offered by the city of Menlo Park allows people to drive over to the police department and have an officer install a car seat.

With the city eyeing a budget deficit, however, it finds itself unable to justify offering the service for free. It would start charging $40 for the service to Menlo Park residents, under a recommendation by city management that the City Council will review at its meeting on Tuesday, March 23.

That's one of a number of services the city is either starting to charge for, or increasing the price of, as it tries to wring money out of a parched budget in the midst of an economic recession. All told, tweaks to the fee schedule and fees for new services would bring in $200,500 per year, according to city management.

"We don't want to be unintentionally subsidizing things we don't want to subsidize," Finance Director Carol Augustine said, explaining the city's policy and acknowledging that department heads took a closer look at the schedule this year than it has in years past.

One set of fee increases almost certain to spur complaints from residents: double-digit percentage hikes to some part-time patrons of the child care center in the Civic Center. Under the new schedule, it will cost more per day to send a child to the program part-time than it would to enroll a child full-time, because it's more difficult to fill part-time slots, according to Ms. Augustine.

Parents of children enrolled in the after-school child care program could see rate increases of up to 39 percent. The city said it was recovering all its costs on the program last year, but that's no longer the case, according to Ms. Augustine.

At the childcare center in the Belle Haven neighborhood, the city will no longer provide a subsidy to families that earn more than $6,000 per month. It will increase the fee for children who take gymnastics classes by $1, a change that will bring in an astounding $60,000 because there are so many kids enrolled in the program.

The city will charge a fee to use a new patio area outside the Burgess recreation center, hoping people might want to use it for weddings or parties. Fees for sports teams to use city fields will also increase, to put them more in line with those of surrounding communities, according to Ms. Augustine.

Another change: Someone who appeals a decision by the planning department, to both the Planning Commission and the City Council, will foot the bill for the full cost of the second appeal. It's designed to discourage appeals when only one resident disagrees with a decision, as appeared to be the case in a recent issue involving a permit for Safeway.

Go to is.gd/aPlmw to see the fee schedule. (This URL is case-sensitive.) The regular council meeting starts at 7 p.m.

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