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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

County to hike building, park fees -- once again County to hike building, park fees -- once again (June 16, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

As San Mateo County squeezes programs to cover a $56 million shortfall in its $1.3 billion budget, it is looking for ways to increase revenue -- such as raising charges for county services.

At its meeting June 8, the Board of Supervisors raised fees for dozens of planning and building services by 33 percent, and instituted two new fees. Starting August 9, the public works department will charge $400 to check plans. And all applicants will pay a 5 percent surcharge on building and planning fees to pay for services from the County Counsel's office.

The fee increases are intended to cover costs of department operations, said Marcia Raines, director of environmental services. Fees for fire protection and planning services will also go up.

In addition, some park fees will increase. Camping in county parks will cost $20 instead of $18. Coyote Point berthing fees will rise 4.7 percent.

These changes follow last year's hefty fee increases, when the county faced an $80 million budget gap. Then planning and building fees went up almost 50 percent, and most park fees increased about 25 percent.

Increase reduced

After five speakers protested the size of the boost in fees for planning and building permits, the supervisors reduced it from the 55 percent proposed by the staff, to 33 percent.

Speakers complained about the size of the increase on top of a 60 percent increase last year. They warned that more people would bypass the permit process and build illegally. "Taxes should pay for something," said Dr. Beverley Bryant of the Homebuilders Association of Northern California.

Supervisor Rich Gordon suggested the compromise that the county should pay the costs of long-range planning, such as general plans and housing plans. "It's good to have fees pay the cost of current planning," he said.

The board voted unanimously to reduce the fee increase from 55 to the 33 percent needed to cover current planning costs. The $755,000 needed to pay for long-range planning will come from county reserves.

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