Manteca has adjusted fees assessed on growth for new fire stations and the fire engines needed to operate them for the first time since 2011.
The City Council Tuesday approved higher fees based on a state-required nexus to justify higher charges that was based simply on maintaining the current level of service.
The decision effectively increases the fire fee for a typical new home from an average of $570 to $989. The fee paid up front by the builder is collapsed into the price of fees paid for the home. The fire fee is in addition to the state mandated fire sprinkler system that adds over $2,000 to the cost of a typical new home.
It marked the first time since the fee was adopted in 1994 that a City Council had the moxie to charge 100 percent of the recommended new fee that is based on projected costs of building fire stations and covering the cost of apparatus such as a typical fire engine that can run between $600,000 and $700,000.
Fire Marshal Lantz Rey related how the council in 2011 had opted to reduce the recommended fee in a bid not to make new housing costs prohibitive during the Great Recession.
A similar thought process about keeping housing costs down prompted the council in 1994 to establish a flat $350 per home fee that was below the justified fee a nexus study supported. The same thing happened in 2000 when the city switched to a per square-foot charge but the council lacked the stomach to impose the maximum fee.
Previous fees that were
not adopted as staff
The lower fee charge was blamed by Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd for the city having to loan the fire fee account $1.7 million to help cover a funding shortfall for the $4.5 million fire station now under construction at Woodward Avenue and Atherton Drive. The inter-fund loan from other city accounts is being paid back as fire fees are collected.
Reduced fee collection is what forced the city to use bonus bucks — fees that were once paid by new home developers to assure sewer allocation certainty — to cover a shortfall in funding for the Union Road station.
Rey also said the fire fee should be updated every five years instead of waiting for eight years to do so as increased construction costs eat into the ability of what money is collected to build needed facilities.
Councilman Gary Singh pointed out the fee increase would make housing less affordable but added the city also needs to provide necessary fire services to handle growth.
He suggested that perhaps the city could investigate how they could possibly reduce fees for potential affordable housing projects. The consultant noted that could be explored as a separate policy but what couldn’t happen under the law was to increase the fire fees for other types of construction such as commercial in order to reduce fees to make housing more affordable.
The decision to increase the fees was unanimous.
What also was different this time around was the rapid approval of the fee increase. In both 2000 and 2011 the councils declined to adopt proposed fee hikes and instead instructed the staff to work further with the building industry. In both cases that delayed fee increases by months.
Concern expressed city might
divert growth fees to replace
This time around developers, as represented by the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley CEO John Beckman, were on board.
Beckman did express reservations about fee language that allowed up to 30.2 percent of the cost of existing apparatus to be replaced by growth fees on the premise existing engines would serve part of the new growth areas.
Beckman argued on behalf of future homeowners that would be paying the pass on fee to restrict the growth fees to new fire station construction and the addition of fire engines to the city’s existing inventory.
He pointed to what happened with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District that used fire growth fees to replace existing engines and then didn’t have the funds to build new fire stations needed to serve the new homes the fees were assessed against.
The council, in voting unanimously to support the higher fees, preferred having the flexibility to use the fees collected to help cover part of the cost of existing fire engines if the city wished.
The per square footage fees as adopted are as follows:
single family homes are going from 30 cents to 52 cents for a 73 percent increase.
commercial retail is going from 22 cents to 32 cents for a 44 percent increase.
offices are going from 29 to 41 cents for a 41.4 percent increase.
multiple family housing per unit is going from 36 cents to 88 cents for a 144.4 percent increase.
Driving the size of the multiple family unit fee hike were a miscalculation in 2011 on the average square footage of a Manteca apartment and the latest figures that show a typical apartment unit now has an average of 2.4 residents compared to 2.0 occupants eight years ago.
Operations just as convalescent hospitals are charged by the bed. That charge is going up 108 percent from $2,205 to $4,588. Like all other categories, the fee is based on service demands. Convalescent hospitals by far have the highest call volume for fire service due to medical needs.
Nearby fire fees for an average home range from $901 to $1,458 in Lathrop, $1,016 in Modesto, and $781 in Stockton compared to $989 for Manteca.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com