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Homeowners get partial free ride with fees
Reroofs, AC, water heater, electrical panel charges too low
The cost recovery study indicates that developers such as Poag & McEwen – the firm building the lifestyle center anchored by Bass Pro Shops – are not paying 100 percent of the cost of municipal development and building services they access. - photo by HIME ROMERO
A cost recovery study shows in several instances developers are being charged too much for basic building permits while homeowners are being substantially undercharged for things such as patio covers, re-roofing projects, and room additions.

Such findings undercut the notion that homeowners are subsidizing developers across the board and adds validity to longstanding Building Industry Association of the Delta arguments that some fees the city adopts appear to be arbitrary. However, the bulk of development-related fees from processing subdivision maps to more specific plan reviews shows the city can justify charging both developers and the typical Manteca homeowner more money.

State law allows cities to recover 100 percent of their costs through fees if they so decide but they can’t collect more than it actually costs. That would mean, under state law, the city is obligated to lower the fees for services they are charging too much for today. Even so, the bottom line is that developers, businesses, and homeowners aren’t paying anywhere near the actual cost of the city providing services for development and building improvements as well as state-mandated fire inspections.
Critics contend the study is flawed because the city isn’t efficient enough. However, the law only says a city must identify its actual costs in processing specific projects to determine what it can recover through fees.

The cost recovery study conducted by Matrix Design Group is being used as the cornerstone of a municipal effort to recoup up to $2,316,000 annually in development, building, and fire inspection fees to help bridge upcoming budget deficits. Manteca currently for a 25,000 square foot office building shell valued at $1.7 million – a size just smaller than Staples – charges $8,610 for the building permit fee and the plan check fee. The actual cost of providing the services is $5,568.

Manteca’s current fee is lower than the seven cities surveyed – Tracy, Folsom, Livermore, Pleasanton, Roseville, Turlock, and Stockton. The study though shows it should be even lower.

The city is charging more per typical repeat tract home plan than their actual costs of the permit and plan check. On a 3,000-square-foot home valued at $212,400 the city is charging $1,708 but its cost is $1,670. Every other city except Tracy charges more than Manteca. Tracy charges $1,694.

Building permit and plan check fees for a 200-square-foot wooden patio cover valued at $3,320 currently costs $104 in Manteca. The actual cost of such services is $802. Manteca is currently lower than the other cities that range from $109 in Roseville to $246 in Livermore.

Manteca is charging more than 75 percent less of the actual cost of building permits and plan checks for a typical 500 square foot light frame wood addition to a home valued at $47,950. The current charge is $662 while the actual cost is $3,076. Manteca’s current fee is only higher than Livermore that charges $431. Pleasanton is at the high end with a fee of $1,254.

Manteca also doesn’t charge enough for a light wood frame commercial retail building valued at $100,000. The actual building permit and plan check costs are $3,238 compared to the current charge of $1,161. Manteca’s charge is lower than the other cities which all come under $2,000 except for Livermore that charges $7,478.

Manteca also isn’t charging enough for a typical 3,000-square-foot light wood frame custom home with a $287,700 value when it comes to the building permit and plan check. The current charge is $2,141 while the actual cost is $7,634. Tracy at $1,115 is the only city charging less than Manteca. The highest is Livermore at $7,252.

Four residential permits extensively issued are under charged
The potentially most politically charged rates involve basic permits are perhaps four residential projects that have a high volume at city hall – reroofing, water heater replacement, main electrical box panel replacement, and heating air replacement.

A reroof permit for 1,500 square feet valued at $9,800 is now being charged $117 when the actual cost is $229. Manteca is lower than every other city surveyed and would still be lower than two cities if the 100 percent cost was made the actual fee.

Manteca charges $39 for the permit for an 110,000 BTU/H heating and air system valued at $9,500 when the actual cost is $220. It is lower than six cities – Pleasanton charges $28 – with the highest being Stockton at $188.

Replacing an $800 water heater costs $50 for the proper permit today in Manteca. That permit actually costs the city $171 to issue.
The current permit is higher than in five of the cities that responded to the survey with Pleasanton being the lowest at $37. Turlock charges $80 for the high.

Manteca is $13 lower than the next lowest city – Pleasanton – for replacement permit for electrical main panel boxes. Manteca charges $28 while the actual cost is $220. Livermore is the highest at $162.