Some city-provided services may soon cost Los Altos residents more money.
A recent cost allocation and fee study recommends increasing charges for several services – from fines for false alarms to block-party permits – provided by the city. In addition, the report calls for a change in the way the city’s Recreation Department establishes some services and its pricing.
The study’s findings were presented June 4 at a special Los Altos City Council meeting. Los Altos Finance Director Russ Morreale said city staff was expected to return to the council Tuesday – after the Town Crier’s press deadline – with specific proposed fee adjustments.
The study noted that the city provides community-supported services, such as public safety, at an annual cost of $28.9 million. The report indicated that the city subsidizes personal-choice services – which are fee-based – by $1.9 million annually, including direct and indirect costs.
Although the study – required by agencies primarily through Proposition 4 – identified approximately $117,000 in potential additional fee revenue through increases and new fees, Morreale said some of the changes were implemented prior to the study’s release.
“The bulk of the recommendations are already in place,” he said.
The recommended fee adjustments include a $5 increase (to $220) for a third false alarm police response for those with alarm permits; the first two are free of charge. The city, according to the report, subsidizes that specific service annually at $129,805.
Other suggested fee changes include an increase from $550 to $585 for police responses to juvenile parties with alcohol, as well as a bump from $105 to $115 for block-party permits. Special event fees – now $1,600 – could potentially increase to $2,045, while fees for ongoing events may rise $50 to $875.
The report recommends establishing Recreation Department service fees using a market-based methodology. According to Morreale, such an approach allows the department greater flexibility to react and adjust programming and subsequently related pricing based on market conditions.
Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw said he believes the switch to a market-based methodology would pay off for the city in the long run.
“I think the more we give, in terms of flexibility, the more we’ll see as a response from our department to reach what they know is our ultimate goal of as close to full cost recovery as possible,” he said.
The report noted that the city recovers 97 percent of the money spent on fee-supported recreation programs, such as health and wellness classes. Community-supported offerings, like teen and senior programs, experience a 15.9 percent direct-cost recovery. Cumulatively, the programs showed a 70.6 percent recovery rate.