Lake Havasu City has proposed an update to the fees and charges associated with all of the various services provided by city staff. If approved, the new fees would take effect in January 2022.
Such updates were once an annual affair in Havasu, but when the master fee schedule was last updated at the beginning of 2020 the council at the time requested that the adjustments be made every other year instead. The proposed changes are open for public comment and are expected to be officially adopted by the City Council in November. Most of the updates incorporate a small increase or no price change in the proposal, but there are also several fees and service charges that have decreased.
Administrative Service Director Jill Olsen told the City Council during its Sept. 14 meeting that staff conducted a complete formal review of the fees this year, which involved each of the departments identifying the services they offer and how much those services cost to provide. Olsen noted that this is the first time a formal review has been conducted since the city instituted a new pay structure that provided raises to nearly all city employees, which in turn increased the cost associated with providing some services.
“Each of the departments looked at the services that they provide, and they broke those services down into enough detail that we could determine what the cost of providing those services is, on a per-unit basis,” Olsen said. “That is where the dollar amounts come from in the master fee schedule.”
Olsen explained that city ordinance determines what percentage of the total cost of a service the city should recover through its fees and schedules. Those percentages are then applied to the cost estimates provided by each department.
As an example, Olsen noted that most of the fees through the Parks and Recreation Department are set at about 50% or less.
“So that 50% would get applied to the cost that was actually estimated and that would be the fee that we are proposing to council on the master schedule,” she said.
For example, the fee set for the Stingray’s swim team to rent the Aquatic Center pool for practice is 20% of the actual cost to the city. That percentage is currently set at 18% of the total cost in city code. So the proposed ordinance would set the fee swim team’s monthly pool rental fee at $1,085 per month, which would be an increase of $34.
Not all of the fees have increased, however. For example, the proposed fees for a Class C fireworks permit for special events of $119 would be $12 less than the current cost, while a Class B fireworks permit fee of $237 is $28 less than the current charge. That decrease is due to the revised cost estimate provided by the fire department, rather than an adjustment in the percentage of costs recovered.
“We looked at who was involved in the inspections,” Fire Chief Peter Pilafas told the council. “So what we did is take the individuals that weren’t involved in the inspections and just removed them. So that is where you see the decrease in cost.”
Staff is proposing that either the percentage of cost recovered, or the method of recovery itself, be tweaked for about 50 city fees or service charges. Each of those are listed in the proposed ordinance that would revise city code. Meanwhile, a total of eight fees would be eliminated by the ordinance altogether.
One example of this is in the municipal court. The city’s proposed ordinance would eliminate a $50 “suspension fee” that the court may collect for each suspension of an Arizona driver’s license. Meanwhile, the proposed ordinance would establish a new $50 “default fee” in its place that the court may collect for civil traffic violations, water violations, and local ordinance violations.
City Magistrate Mitchell Kalauli said this particular change is proposed due to a tweak in the language included in state statute.
“The court has been charging a suspension fee of $50 for as long as I can remember, along with all the courts in Arizona,” Kalauli said. “The suspension fee, because of some changes in the statute, has now been shifted over to a default fee. So it is a type of cost recovery that when somebody decides they are not going to address an issue before the court there are costs associated with that. If they come and address the issue, there aren’t those costs associated. So this is kind of a cost recovery mechanism for what we do.”
The new proposed master fee schedule is currently up for review. Olsen said the ordinance will return for another public hearing during a City Council meeting in November for final adoption.
“This gives us plenty of time to hopefully receive comments and input from the public as they review the charges so we can do further research if necessary, or take a look at our calculations, or perhaps even perform some market studies,” she said.