Costa Mesa leaders discuss fee increases, street improvements for proposed $155 million 2017-18 budget – Orange County Register

COSTA MESA – City Council members poring over the proposed $155 million 2017-18 budget expressed concerns about increases to park and youth program fees and a $900,000 replacement for a mobile command vehicle.

But they seemed united in support at Tuesday night’s special meeting for proposed capital improvement projects, including reconstruction of Fire Station No. 1, renovation of Lions Park to make way for a new library and community center and traffic improvements on Fairview Road.

The general fund, which provides the bulk of all spending, has increased 6 percent for the 2017-18 fiscal year, with around 54 percent of that slated for public safety, officials said.

Mayor Katrina Foley rejected proposed fee increases for park rentals, senior center travel and children’s after-school and recreation programs.

“I don’t think we should be balancing our budget on the backs of seniors and working families,” Foley said. “I think the camp programs, the after school programs are a valuable resource that provide much more in benefit than they cost,”

City staffers said the increase would help the city recover its costs for implementing those programs.

Fire Chief Dan Stefano recommended increasing several fire inspection and plan review fees, also in the name of cost recovery.

The city has not increased its fees since 2008, City Manager Tom Hatch said.

“We do have from our staff’s perspective, the lowest fees in the county,” Hatch told the council.

The City Council did agree with the idea of boosting fees for guests flying drones or planes in Fairview Park, since most don’t reside in the city.

The proposed budget outlines $19.5 million for capital improvement projects. Major projects include the fire station reconstruction and Lions Park renovation. Other projects discussed were traffic signal improvements to the Fairview corridor and design projects for Newport Boulevard and Wilson Street.

The city expects to collect additional revenue next fiscal year through having the Fire Department provide ambulance transport services and adding permit fees associated with Measure X that medical marijuana businesses will need to obtain, according to a staff report. The permit fees are expected to bring in around $490,000, the report said.

The voter-approved initiative allows medical marijuana businesses to conduct research, testing, manufacturing and wholesale distribution in an area north of the I-405 and west of Harbor Boulevard. No retail sales, cultivation or dispensaries are allowed.

Council members briefly discussed their highest priorities, such as the Lions Park project, addressing homelessness and sober-living facilities. Other items mentioned were filling 80 vacancies in city staffing and  animal control and sheltering services.

Councilwoman Sandra Genis questioned the need to spend $900,000 to replace an aging police mobile command vehicle given that the department has two substations and a main station.

“We’re only 15…

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