When reviewing fee recommendations with staff as part of a Cost of Services Study, there are often discussions about what they think the Council or Board will actually approve. Is this fee too high? Will the business community or residents be up in arms? Will developers flee? And other stereotypes about fees, especially development fees.
Then, as a result, staff has felt the need to recommend subsidies, or worse, decrease the time detail to match what they felt was an appropriate fee. There may be certain services in which a fee subsidy is appropriate or even necessary, such as services with market concerns or legal limits. But we can’t have a discussion about appropriate cost recovery if staff has already lowered the bar based on the fear that parts of the community will think the fees are too high.
While these concerns may be reasonable concerns, they are political and policy concerns, which is the job of our governing bodies. Our job, and staff’s job, is to present the most accurate representation of the cost of providing the service.
Most often when we review the full cost recovery fees with a Council or Board, they have not had problems with the vast majority of the full-cost recommendations. They may still choose to subsidize some fees, but it is now a conscious decision based on accurate information.
The main reason for this response is the time we spend with them to make sure they understand that the costs are occurring, and the question is who should pay for these costs - the feepayer or the taxpayer. They may even decide to phase in larger fee changes, but they are comfortable with a policy of 100% cost recovery.
We just need to give them a chance to do what they were elected to do – which is to set policy for your agency based on the best information available. So, let the Council decide.