Story Corps

Like food, gas and rent, prices for a menu of Sonoma County services are going up. 

A booth at a body art festival. Temporary food facility with no food preparation. Changing ownership of a dairy. A hike-in campsite at a county park. These are among the 864 fees that will go up with the start of the fiscal year in July, after a vote Tuesday by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Three fees are declining.

The increases were attributed to higher costs, inflation and an initiative to have certain county services entirely covered by fees.

That's especially true for Permit Sonoma, the county planning office, which has adopted hourly rates in some circumstances. It may be an improvement, but it's still confusing to the general public, according to Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

"While I support that in principle, it also then becomes challenging for customers to understand what fee they are ultimately going to be facing."

Hopkins, and supervisor David Rabbitt called for a more in depth discussion of the topic.

Addressing the board, Calum Weeks of the non-profit group GenerationHousing urged officials to hold the line on fees, especially ones paid by builders.

"We are concerned that the fees continue to increase at a time when the cost of building is soaring due to interest hikes and inflated material costs. And again, we understand that cost recovery is paramount to assuring appropriate staffing levels and adequate delivery of services, but we think given the economic climate and our desperate need for housing, that this isn't really the best time to increase fees."

While the measures increasing fees were approved, Supervisor David Rabbitt urged a deeper look.

"How many different fees are below the first line? You have a technology fee, there's a general plan administration fee, there's God knows what else. We should make it very transparent to be able to call up, I have a project, describe it, what are my fees? For building at least, extremely difficult, if not quite honestly impossible," he said.


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