OCEANSIDE — Many feel the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee’s decision not to recommend an across-the-board fee increase April 18 is a positive step toward no slip fee increases.
The majority no vote came after several committee members said they still had questions on the harbor budget and how maintenance projects will be prioritized.
Committee members Steven Derganc, Liz Rhea, Jim Jenkins and James Gardener voted no on the proposed fee increase plan.
Boat owners also questioned the proposed 33 percent fee increase and asked for justification after different budget numbers have been presented at different times by city-hired consultants Keyser Marston Associates.
“From the first ‘KMA’ report to the last, there has been a continuous flow of fluctuating reports and numbers used,” David Albert, a boat owner and live aboard resident, said. “In today’s ‘HBAC’ meeting city accounting department stated they had ‘no idea where KMA got their numbers,’ as they (the city) were never contacted (by Keyser Marston Associates).”
“I keep looking at it (the harbor budget) trying to make sense of it,” Joe Cramer, an Oceanside resident, said. “There’s a lot of confusion to where it’s operating (in the black or in the red).”
“I think it’s important we do have an understanding of what’s going on,” Wayne Hill, a boat owner and live aboard resident, said.
Most agree the harbor budget needs to be balanced and include funds for a capital improvement plan for harbor maintenance.
“The Keyser Marston report is an attempt to look into the future,” committee chair John Metz said. “Obviously it looks like there needs to be an increase. There is no money to build anything in the future unless we plan for it.”
Some fear raising fees too high will leave empty slips in the harbor and make matters worse.
“The rates have traditionally been fair,” Patricia Gadbis of Oceanside said. “Obviously the waiting list has shrunk. I hope you’re not killing the golden goose, the slip fee renters.”
Since discussions on fee increases began in 2009, the proposed budget for harbor capital improvements has been cut from $22 million to $9 million, which encourages some to seek more cuts before fees are raised.
“When does the red flag get raised to control our own budget, control our own spending?” committee member Jim Jenkins asked. “It’s a snowball effect on the harbor, the owners, the merchants.”
Others see an immediate need to raise funds through fees and other measures even if costs are cut.
“The budget has us going in the negative in the year 2013,” committee member Scott Townsend said. “There should be somewhere a plan for adjusting.”
There was also discussion on what improvements are needed.
Most can see the need to spend $500,000 to improve the dock electrical systems, but not everyone could buy into spending $600,000 for bathroom upgrades in the present economy.
Plans to raise fees have been proposed since 2010 with tiered increases, increases across the board, and no increases proposed.
“This (earlier proposed) two-tier system would taken care of the whole ball of wax,” committee member Rhea said. “Now we’re brought back to a Reader’s Digest version of the budget that wouldn’t cover the 20-year improvements.”
In a second 4-3 vote, the committee sent the item back to the Harbor and Beaches Ad Hoc Committee to further study the capital improvement budget. Committee members John Metz, Kevin Bryne, and Scott Townsend voted no on this motion.