Mar. 20—The cost of airport parking, environmental reviews, cannabis inspections and hundreds of other fees would increase under new proposals by Sonoma County departments designed to raise revenue by $3.27 million.
Seven Sonoma County departments are requesting increases in fees across a wide range of government services to cover the rising cost of delivering those services.
The departments have proposed adjustments to 867 fees — the majority in the county's permitting department.
"Most of these are fees for services that cover the cost of the service and I think that's a reasonable trade," said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the updated fees Tuesday, marking one of the first steps in the county's annual budgeting process.
However, the new fees would not take effect until July, after budget workshops in April and formal hearings in June, said Natalie Brunamonte, a principal analyst for the county.
The timing allows departments to adjust their budget requests should the board reject or alter any of the fee recommendations, Brunamonte added.
Permit Sonoma, the county's planning and permitting department, is requesting the updates to 563 fees — the most of any department. The department has proposed a 10% increase for most of those fees, which range from environmental reviews and use permits to vacation rental monitoring and well and septic inspections.
"As our costs change, it's necessary from time to time that our fees change as well," said Bradley Dunn, a Permit Sonoma policy manager. "The services aren't changing that much."
Permit Sonoma and the Agriculture, Weights and Measures department participated in a fee analysis in Fiscal Year 2019-2020 that concluded both departments needed to increase fees to keep up with the cost of services.
"It found we were substantially below our cost recovery goal," said Brunamonte.
In 2022 the Board of Supervisors allocated money from its general fund to subsidize those fees, Brunamonte said.
Coursey said he is interested in closing that gap "over time."
"We don't want to have to raise fees by huge amounts in one fell swoop," he said.
In addition to Permit Sonoma's proposed increases, Agriculture, Weights and Measures is proposing an average 6% increase across 43 fees, including cannabis inspections and tow truck inspections, according to a staff report.
The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport is requesting increases ranging from 1% to 25% on 97 fees as well as the introduction of eight new fees that cover terminal digital advertising and are expected to bring in $720,000, according to a staff report. The increases include aircraft storage, landing fees, airline rates and charges, vehicle parking and fuel flowage fees and are estimated to generate a $472,970 revenue increase.
Brunamonte noted the airport's fees were frozen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's a revenue generating enterprise," Brunamonte said. "It acts more like a business than say the agriculture commissioner's office."
Other departments requesting adjustments include Health Services, the Sheriff's Office, Regional Parks and County Administrator's Office.
You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MurphReports.
(c)2023 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
Visit The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) at www.pressdemocrat.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.