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Council to Consider New Fees : Thousand Oaks: The one-time tax would force developers to pay part of the costs of providing services for new residents.

July 26, 1994|STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hunting for funds to keep the city running well into the next century, Thousand Oaks council members tonight will consider imposing a new layer of city fees amounting to a once-only tax on future residents.

Supporters of the plan say it would force developers to pay part of the costs of providing services for new residents. The added fees would probably get folded into home prices and thereby passed on to newcomers, they add.

It's either that, Councilman Frank Schillo quipped, or "new residents would have to promise never to use our library."

Developers already fork over considerable cash every time they build a home in Thousand Oaks, according to city documents.

They pay into a fund to build police facilities--$84 for each single-family home. Another $150 per home goes for library improvements. Plus, they ante up money for parks, schools, flood control and fire stations.

But those fees are designed to pay for capital construction--not ongoing services, Finance Director Bob Biery said.

As soon as residents move into a freshly built tract, the city assumes the full burden of supplying those new citizens with clean streets, tidy public landscaping, a well-stocked library and safe neighborhoods.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 27, 1994 Ventura West Edition Metro Part B Page 5 Column 6 Zones Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong information--An article Tuesday misstated the average cost of development fees in Ventura County. The fees add $20,000 to $30,000 to the price of a single-family home, according to Dee Zinke, executive director of the regional Building Industry Assn.

Thousand Oaks' hefty sales-tax income once covered most of these costs. Recently, however, the state has successfully swiped money from city coffers. In the past four years, state raids have grabbed more than $1 million from the general fund, Biery said.

With Thousand Oaks' population predicted to swell by at least 25,000 in the next two decades, Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski fears a crisis. That's why she has led the drive to impose more fees on new development.

Following a model developed by the city of Lancaster, Zukowski has urged her fellow council members to consider adding fees for police protection, library operations, road repairs and a host of other city services.

"I don't believe we have much choice," Zukowski said.

Developers, however, strongly disagree.

Already, development fees for capital improvements tack an extra $2,500 to $3,500 to the price of the average single-family home in Ventura County, according to Dee Zinke, executive director of the regional Building Industry Assn. New levies could push home prices up further.

"I think it's ridiculous that the city would make the statement that we don't pay our fair share," Zinke said.

"We all, as citizens, have invested in the future of our community," she said. "When you talk about fixing potholes, that's a community responsibility. We see this (proposal) as one last stab at getting a small number of new residents to pay for a heck of a lot, and that seems unfair."

Opponents of new fees have also argued that developers will be unable to serve low-income residents if their up-front costs soar. And they have suggested that big companies might be reluctant to build in Thousand Oaks if their workers cannot afford homes nearby.

Finally, Mayor Alex Fiore offers one simple reason to oppose new fees. "I don't think it's workable," he said.

A one-time tax on development could never cover the cost of providing ongoing services to new residents, Fiore said, "unless you charge some astronomical fee and form an (endowment) that can earn a lot of interest."

The city has balanced budgets for 30 years based on sales and gas taxes and a few other assessments, and Fiore said he feels certain that those revenues will keep coming. A development fee, he said, might provide a quick shot in the arm, but would not help much in the long term.

"Take the (recently approved) Dos Vientos tract," he said. "There's 220 homes. If you charged them $1,000 per home, you'd end up with $220,000. That would get you three police officers for one year. Then what would you do the next year?"

But several department heads said they would welcome any budgetary boost, even a one-time development fee.

"We need to increase response capability and manpower as our city continues to grow," Sheriff's Cmdr. Kathy Kemp said. "The increase in calls for service is beginning to create some problems."

Before levying a law-enforcement fee, city officials would have to determine an appropriate, sustainable level of police service. That exercise alone could help, Kemp said, because it would "set a structure for continuing expansion of the Police Department as the city grows."

Under state law, cities that impose development fees can charge only enough to cover the direct cost of serving each new unit.

To help calculate that formula, City Manager Grant Brimhall has proposed establishing a task force and hiring a consultant. The council will vote on that recommendation at today's 5 p.m. meeting.

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