Supervisors approve another year of lower fees
MADERA – The Madera County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday, Sept. 11, to extend the two-thirds reduction in permit fees for another year.
“If you’re planning to build a garage or add on to your house, this is the time to do it,” says District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler.The fees were reduced in September 2011 as part of an effort to boost the economy in Madera County by reducing more than two dozen fees associated with construction and development, and making it more affordable to build. Property owners can also apply for a payment plan to defer development impact fees.
Wheeler has often said, “Zero percent of zero is still zero. If no one is pulling permits, then we have zero revenue anyway. This may reduce money coming into the general fund, but it creates general fund money forever through property taxes, sales tax and jobs created from the day they pull that permit.”
The 66.7% reduction in fees, which went into effect Sept. 1, 2011, was scheduled to be lowered to a 33.3% reduction this month. The supervisors’ unanimous vote, however, means that property owners, builders and developers will be able to take advantage of the two-thirds reduction for another year, and it is retroactive to Sept 1, 2012.
“I’m really encouraged by all the well and sewer permits we’ve seen over the last few months,” said Wheeler. “That’s a big indicator of homes that are going to be built. New homes give us jobs and taxes; a fee is just a one-time thing. This is a good stimulus for the economy of Madera County.”
Darin Soukup, executive director of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, commended the board for “taking our economic development in this county very seriously.”
“We have gotten a lot of feedback at the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce about the reductions, all positive,” Soukup said. “People have been able to do some extra planning and put some projects in the pipeline.”
Soukup voiced the support from Eastern Madera County. “I know you have a fiduciary responsibility to both the accounting and your constituents, and you need to do what is best, but I do see a lot of benefit to this program and the Oakhust Area Chamber of Commerce is definitely behind it.”
Madera County Engineer Ken Vang cautioned the supervisors that, “Based on our budget last year, we were at 85% of revenues. If we hadn’t done the fee reduction, we would have been at 115%.”
Vang said his department laid off two employees because of the fee reductions.
“Although we have stimulated the economy in Madera County, not enough revenue came in to offset those general fund costs,” he said. “It is our fiduciary responsibility to county residents to maintain and operate government services.”
District 2 Supervisor David Rogers wanted to clarify the issue of layoffs. “I believe the layoffs would have occurred anyway, due to the reorganization of departments and restructuring. They were not due to shortage of funds. We need to find that balance where we’re not overcharging the public, and I believe we’ve determined that we have been doing that.”
Board Chairman Ronn Dominici doesn’t agree that the county has been overcharging. “We’re just trying to stimulate the economy.”
The board voted 5-0 in favor of extending the reduced fees for another year, reevaluating at that time, and directing staff to look at the actual cost of doing business under these reductions.
The reduction of fees does not apply to large developments such as subdivisions, and there are specific guidelines and thresholds for large projects. More information on the fee reductions and guidelines is available at www.madera-county.com.
List of current fees at the 2/3 reduction provided by Supervisor Wheeler’s Office – (click to enlarge)