Upped harbor fee fails to get final approval

OCEANSIDE — In order to beef up next years’ city budget, all proposed city service fee increases got an OK on April 8, except for the harbor slip rental fee. The council approved 4-1 a motion not to approve a harbor fee increase.
The harbor slip rental fee increase was cut in half from the initially proposed increase, but still received strong opposition from boat owners who said they already pay their fair share.
Slip fees are consistently increased annually. Boaters said an additional fee increase is too much too often.
“The new proposal of a 26 percent increase, in my case, is still too much in a year and a half,” boat owner David Stong said.
The harbor budget is in the black. The proposed increase would fund harbor capital improvement projects that include sewer line repairs, riprap replacement and remodeling restrooms.
“There is a very modest $4 million in the harbor fund,” Don Hadley, deputy city manager, said. Money in the harbor fund is for emergency breakwater jetty repair and capital equipment replacement. Harbor improvement projects need seed money the additional fee increase would provide.
“We do not need improvements right now,” boat owner Wayne Hill said.
Boaters said the poor economy makes it the wrong time to fund improvement projects.
“We have to look at this long range,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “There is no good time to raise fees. In two years instead of a dollar its $3, even if its good times. Fifty cents here, 50 cents next year is something we can absorb.”
Many boaters said they can’t absorb the fee increase and they will need to sell their boats if the proposed increase is OK’d. Boaters who live on their boats said the fee increase would make housing unaffordable.
“It’s a beautiful place to live,” Teresa Duffell, who has lived aboard her boat for five years, said. “I hope I can continue to say that.”
While no increase was made to harbor fees, council OK’d increases to Parks and Recreation fees in a 4-1 vote with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voting against. An ambulance service fee increase was approved 3-2, with Councilman Rocky Chavez and Sanchez voting against. An increase in the DUI emergency response fee was approved 4-1, Sanchez voted against. An increase in police document service and false alarm fees was OK’d 3-2 with Sanchez and Chavez voting against. The increases will add money to the general fund by charging users more for services.
Parks and Recreation fee increases will add an estimated $150,000 to the general fund. Ambulance fee increases are expected to kick in an extra $250,000 to the general fund. Higher fees for DUI responses are estimated to add $150,000 to the general fund and increased police document service and false alarm response fees an extra $10,000.
Many of the fees have not been increased in years. Park and Recreation fees were last adjusted in 1991.
Ambulance service fees have not seen an increase in five years. “The last time we set those fees was 2004,” Sheri Brown, city revenue manager, said.

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