MONTEREY PARK — cerned that an increase in city fees may force businesses out of the city, the Chamber of Commerce last week lashed out at the City Council and called for the community to fight the increases.
The chamber's criticism comes in the wake of a recent council decision to impose fee increases on everything from business licenses to animal licenses to tennis lessons in public parks.
"We are opposed to the whole packet at this time," said Ignatius Balderrama, chairman of a chamber committee formed to fight the fee increases. "We feel it was put together overnight."
The majority of the proposed changes were approved as a council resolution. Other fee changes, such as business licenses, hotel-room taxes and commercial telephone taxes, were given preliminary approval and will receive final review at a council meeting Monday, Bell said. The council, which voted 4 to 1 for the increases, agreed with City Manager Mark Lewis that increases are needed to make up for a shortfall in the city's operating budget. Councilman Christopher Houseman cast the dissenting vote.
Chamber representatives said businesses would be forced to bear the brunt of the burden.
sh $1.1 Million Expected
Of the $1.1 million that the city hopes to raise annually, $380,000 would come from business licenses and hotel and telephone taxes that would be paid by businesses, said Henry Terashita, a chamber board member.
The base rate for business licenses would increase from $63 to $75 annually. In addition, businesses would be charged $15 per employee, as opposed to $9 under current regulations. For restaurants and bars, a fee of $2 to $7 per seat would be established. A $1,200 annual limit for business licenses would be eliminated.
Marie Purvis, a chamber board member, said that without the limit, business license fees for some restaurants could reach $15,000.
But Helen Bell, management services director for the city, said the estimates are "an exaggeration." She said a restaurant paying $15,000 a year would have to have seating capacity for more than 3,000 people.
sh More Parking Meters
Other parts of the financing package, such as adding parking meters in commercial areas for the first time and fees for making requests for zoning changes, would also have a significant impact on businesses, Terashita said.
Bell said about $600,000 will come from a cross-section of the community. She said the increases cover such items as charges for overdue library books, penalties for returned checks and fees for community sports programs.
Bell said comparisons with other cities, such as Pasadena, Torrance, and Los Angeles, indicate that the city's new fees "compare very favorably."
The chamber plans to hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss alternatives to the fee increases, Purvis said. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Luminaria's restaurant, 3500 Ramona Blvd.
Purvis said she asked the council for a 30-day extension so chamber members could review the fees, but she said her request fell on deaf ears.
Chamber board members said they did not have specific solutions in mind.
"We are not against increasing taxes," Balderrama said. "We want to work with the council to improve living conditions in the city.
"But give us something to work with," he said. "Don't throw something at us and say this is what you have to live with."