GMSP! City fee study addressed by City Manager Peter Cosentini

December 29, 1999
Santa Paula News
The City of Santa Paula Fee Study, a “$35,000 investment in our future,” according to City Manager Peter Cosentini, was discussed at the December meeting of Good Morning Santa Paula! The chamber sponsored event was hosted by McCoy’s Automotive and held at Logsdon’s at the Santa Paula Airport.Cosentini said when he joined Santa Paula about two years ago he was aware of the city’s “well-known and publicized” fiscal problems.Fees for city services had not been raised since the early 1990s, although some were adopted in 1994.“Over time, the cost of business goes up,” including city business, he noted, and it was found “there is a gap in the charge for a service less than what the service actually costs.”He used Rite-Aid Drug store as an example, noting that the permit fees paid for the new structure on Harvard Boulevard were actually half what it cost to process them through City Hall. “You paid the difference,” Cosentini said, “you subsidized Rite-Aid and that’s wrong. . .that’s money that could have gone to the police or fire departments.”Cosentini said the city’s “tale of woe is important, and it’s important to be straight with you. The good news is we have a balanced budget and had one last year resulting from two years of fiscal conservatism. The bad news is my first year here I found city coffers were overextended and the needs in the community tremendous.”
Tightening the budget through aggressive cuts were implemented, and the city is now “running lean” and services are strained. When lightning struck the antenna of the Santa Paula Police Department, the city had to scramble to find replacement parts for the 30-year-old system; ultimately, insurance paid the bill for its replacement via an act of God.Due to the budget woes, police and fire services are tight with violent crime taking a high priority over non-violent incidents.The City Council has shown it is “brave” by approving the fee increases, which may ultimately garner $3.5 million overall, but the majority will go to the dedicated accounts of the sewer and water enterprises.“There’s big numbers in water and sewer,” Cosentini said. “. . .nothing’s been put away for replacement of the systems.”The General Fund will get a pittance, probably $200,000 to $300,000, enough for “one good raise and a couple of police cars,” Cosentini noted. Of course, collection of the fees that would go to the General Fund are “predicated on activity,” he added.

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