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County poised to increase hundreds of fees

  • J. Bosch, a reserve lifeguard with Sonoma County Regional Parks, places a rescue dummy in the water during a rookie lifeguard training session at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Sonoma County government is set to raise fees Tuesday for a wide range of services, including park use, law enforcement charges and planning and building permits.

Most of the hikes range from the 2.6 percent increase proposed for more than 250 residential and commercial development activities to the roughly 17 percent increase at regional parks, where day-use fees are set to go from $6 to $7.

County transit rates are set to rise by up to 5.8 percent for adult users and up to 12.5 percent for senior and disabled users, while rates for paratransit service are set to rise by up to 9.2 percent.

The county would increase fees for a handful of other services by 20 to 50 percent, add several new fees and eliminate a few others.

The proposals could raise more than $1.5 million across eight departments. They are meant to recover a larger share of the county's expenses, including a projected rise in employee salary and benefit costs.

The hikes are also to make up for declining support from the county's main pot of discretionary money, the general fund, which faces a $10.4 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.

The fees encompass everything from youth lifeguard training and septic system checks to fire safety inspections and site visits to proposed vineyard projects.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the fees in a series of afternoon hearings.

The proposals have generated less controversy than annual fee hikes considered by supervisors in the past two years. Those votes were highlighted by opposition to rental hikes for veterans buildings — some as high as 200 percent — and increases in development-related fees, which saw a median hike of 16 percent last year.

Officials said those moves were needed to refresh outdated rate structures. Most increases this year are far less steep and are meant to cover annual cost increases for county government, they said.


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