On May 14, the Blythe City Council unanimously adopted a new user fee schedule for various city department services in accordance with staff recommendation and a study presented by Willdan Financial Services.
“The objectives of the user fee study was to develop a rational basis for setting fees; understanding the total cost of providing services; identifying the subsidy amounts, if applicable; identifying appropriate fee adjustments that enhance fairness and equity; (and) maintain consistency in local policy objectives and comply to state law,” stated Willdan Financial Services’ representative Priti Patel. “We also developed a model that is updateable, with a comprehensive list of fees that the city is allowed to use every year.”
In July of 2018, in an effort to explore general fund options for increased revenue streams, the Blythe City Council awarded Willdan Financial Services a general services agreement contract, in an amount not to exceed $34,855, for completion of the comprehensive user fee study and full cost allocation plan.
The scope of the 50-plus page analysis report — which is available online* — included following city departments: administrative; cannabis; parks; recreation; building; planning; public works; and law enforcement (see graph for city user fee adjustments).
“It is further recommended the Council adopt an annual CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflator for all departments with the exception of parks, (the) recreation center, and the (Blythe) Community Center so that fees remain in line with the cost of providing these services,” noted the staff report. “This will ensure modest increases annually in hopes of avoiding a long period of time with no fee increases and then a year where fees must be raised significantly as we are now experiencing. A majority of the city’s (current) fees have not been (increased) since the 1990s with some of the departments implementing modest fee increases in 2008 and 2009.”
Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius noted a response received from the Desert Valley Builders Association in relation to the report, contending the data provided was not a comprehensive study:
“After discussion with Priti, and (Blythe City Attorney) Baron (Bettenhausen) — this is a comprehensive report. I’d just like to note that for the record that this is the comment (the city) received, but that we do have a comprehensive report that fully addresses everything that they’re asking for.”
No representative from the Desert Valley Builders Association was present at the hearing to provide remarks during the public comment portion of the proceeding.
In response to a query by Blythe resident Leslie Watkins on how much in total dollars the fee increases would provide to the city’s general fund, staff noted the figure was not available at this point in time and, further, the sum would depend on the number of permits pulled — the potential revenue comparisons of which would likely be available in the first quarter of the coming fiscal year.
“I completely agree, we have been so far behind on this — I pull a demolition permit here in the city and it’s $47 bucks (whereas) out in the county, it’s $268? Ish. There’s a huge disparity between what our cost is versus what we collect,” noted Watkins during public comment. “I know we’re very far behind as implementing this, finally. I’m just curious as to what it’s going to mean; and I would think, as part of a study, that we would have an idea of what those dollars maybe lost have been and what those project forward for potential income to the general fund, or lack of expense (therein.)”
(*Editor’s Note: The City of Blythe User Fee Study by Willdan Financial Services is currently available at: http://www.cityofblythe.ca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1404/User-Fee-Study-2019?bidId=)