WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County hikes fees for hundreds of services

Sonoma County bus fare is one of several fees going up. (PD File)


It’ll cost a little more to ride a Sonoma County bus or hold a picnic in a regional park following Tuesday’s approval of a slate of fee increases meant to offset the county’s budget deficit.

With little opposition, the Board of Supervisors approved hundreds of hikes, including raising the cost of adult bus fare by 5.8 percent and increasing park day-use fees from $6 to $7.

Supervisors also approved a $1 hike in airport parking and increased 270 development fees, adding a requirement that builders cover county costs during appeals by project opponents.

All told, the increases are expected to generate $1.5 million a year to help to offset a projected $10.4 million budget shortfall in the budget year starting July 1.

The developer increases drew a scathing letter from a key building industry association, which predicted the hikes would have “a crippling effect” on development in the region.

Supervisors Efren Carrillo and David Rabbitt expressed sympathy for comments about declining customer service but voted along with the rest of the board for the increases.

“I’m concerned we don’t go down a path where it’s insufferable to get something done,” Rabbitt said.

The parks increase passed with little fanfare. It’s expected to raise an additional $65,000 for the department.

Director Caryl Hart told supervisors about other efforts underway to generate money, including the creation of new pay stations in 14 regional parks. Also under consideration are ways to encourage park users to pay day-use fees rather than walking in from adjacent streets.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said she noticed the frustrating trend on weekend trips to the park. “We are aggressively working on this issue, I can assure you,” Hart said.

Other increases hit people who rent hangars at the airport.

Don Pedrazzini, a retired airline pilot from Santa Rosa, complained about a $60 a year hike despite what he said are poor hangar conditions, which include a leaky roof and feral cats defecating on the floor.

He said hangar tenants might be tempted to go elsewhere.

“I believe raising rents will result … in a loss of revenue to the county, not an increase,” Pedrazzini said.

18 Responses to “Sonoma County hikes fees for hundreds of services”

  1. bear says:

    Most of you don’t seem to want to pay for what you get.

    Let’s eliminate building codes, septic codes and the entire land use permit process. I have some really good ideas on how to make money from this next door to you.

    Let’s cut off extended unemployment benefits.

    Let’s cut out tax deductions or credits for children.

    Let’s eliminate the mortage tax deduction.

    Let’s eliminate the requirement for kids to be in school, and charge market rate for all education, including college.

    Let’s let property values for taxation purposes be based on market values, and fall or decline with the market.

    Let’s eliminate all health and human services for families, the disabled and the elderly. Christians will provide?

    Let’s eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and seize the trust funds. You will take care of grandma?

    Let’s eliminate ALL unions and all worker benefits like sick leave, family leave, vacations, healthcare, pensions and all tax-exempt income such as

    Let’s eliminate all federal and state tax loopholes for corporations and zillionaires.

    Let’s tax all corporate offshore income as if it were earned in the US.

    Let’s eliminate farm subsidies except to real family farmers.

    Oh, and let’s cut the $845 billion/year “defense” budget by 30% or more. What is the credible threat? None of it prevented 9/11. We got three fighters in the air?

    Let’s get our military out of the Middle East, Germany, Japan and Korea.

    All this is clearly welfare for corporations, middle income families, the rich, paranoid or whiny.


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  2. GAJ says:

    What happened to “the buck stops here”?

    Of course the Supervisors, past and present, are a huge part of the problem.

    The Supervisors’ budget is greater than the Road Maintenance budget for crying out loud!

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  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Larry, it’s not the supervisors that are the problem (well, maybe, when you figure they have approved all the added management and haven’t asked them to sacrifice). It’s the management with the low ratio of managers to rank and file staff. Mangement gets all kinds of perks AND THOSE PERKS ARE COUNTED TOWARD THEIR PENSION. One I just learned of was a “merit” increase if they give 1 year notice of leaving. The idea is to give the county time to train someone new, but that doesn’t happen. It’s money in the bank and a boost to their final pension. Other benefits that count toward their pension is car allowances and other allowances. They also get county paid deferred compensation they can collect when they retire (rank and file can pay into a deferred comp account, but it’s out of their wages). This is how they make more money after they retire than when they worked. Not something most of the rank and file can do. Safety employees might be the exception. Meanwhile, lower paid staff have to drop their families off their health insurance because they can’t afford the new premiums.

    The county has been ADDING management since 2008 at the same time they were laying off rank and file staff. That ratio has actually gotten worse, with high paid managers replacing those that provide the actual services. The numbers are there and the PD should ask the BOS for them instead of making it look like ALL the county employees are wastrels.

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  4. Tracy says:

    They need to increase 100′s of fees to help cover the pensions costs. The fees are a hidden tax to help cover the costs of pension and health care benefits that were never affordable in the first place.

    Just another way to get more money from taxpayers to pay county and city employees. And this is just the beginning!

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Shame on you Missy-I didn’t say illegals. I would never ask that or care. Lots of hispanics in the county are poor and can’t afford cars. They are part of the poor needing to take the bus so they can get to work, school, shopping, appointments.

    In fact, I’ve met people from Africa, the middle east, europe, south America, China, Vietnam and so on, on the bus. I don’t assume they are illegal because they are from another country.

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  6. Larry says:

    Maybe all of the people who are unset about the increased fees for almost everything in Sonoma County might want to consider initiating a referendum on Sonoma County Supervisor’s Salaries and Benefit Packages. Why are they paid $160,000.00 per year for a part time job. Additionally, they have tied their salaries to that of Sonoma County Judges and consider $160,000.00 per year to represent only 75% parity with the judges salaries. These kind of salaries do not even include the benefit packages they receive. WE DO NOT NEED $200,000.00 PLUS PER YEAR COUNTY SUPERVISORS! WHY DOES SONOMA COUNTY NEED OVERPAID SUPERVISORS IN ADDITION TO A HIGHLY PAID ADMINISTRATOR (PAY PACKAGE OF $300,000.00 OR MORE). MAYBE ITS THESE KIND OF ISSUES THAT ARE BREAKING SONOMA COUNTY.

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  7. Steveguy says:

    They raised the bus fares. Did any of you know that Sonoma County Transit is run mostly on Compressed Natural Gas ?

    Yes, and the cost for this ‘clean-burning’ fuel is low now, maybe the equivalent of $2.00 a gallon now.

    Why does CNG get ‘lumped’ in with coal as a fuel. Even our City and County Reps rail on any fossil fuel, and yet proclaim the buses to be ‘clean’.

    They brag on their environmentalism, and yet chase rainbows when it comes to real solutions.

    Such is politics, alas.

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  8. George L. Marshall says:

    Missy no one mentioned “illegals” except you. Either you have poor reading comprehension skills(the post referred to ‘Hispanics’ not to any one’s legal status) or you are racist and just assume any “hispanic” you see is here illegally (Hispanics are not necessarily “illegal” there are 3 or four generations of Latinos born in the US) After reading your many posts I would say the answer is both.

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  9. Missy says:

    Mock says this ” Lots of disabled, elderly, students, low income, hispanics taking the buses.”

    Hang on. So we’re supposed to fund illegals with our tax dollars? People who came here illegally? I think not. The others, ok I have compassion for as long as they are AMERICANS. I am quite sick of paying for illegals with my tax dollars and they can go right back home.

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  10. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Oh, and Jean, the poor pay FICA taxes along with those regressive taxes levied on all of the poor and middleclass. Add it all up, and it’s a huge percentage of a person’s income. The poorer you are the more these taxes are punishing. Many of these poor, if you added up all the taxes they pay, would be paying a higher tax rate than many corporations pay (which is sometimes NOTHING).

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  11. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Jean Anderson-fare/fair is a typo. You are nitpicking.

    The lack of compassion of some people on this blog is pretty upsetting. I wonder how many who blog here claim to be Christians? One doesn’t have to be a bleeding heart liberal to care about the welfare of our fellow human beings who aren’t as fortunate.

    As for your post, public transportation is the only transportation some of us have. Many of these elderly and disabled are subsisting on Social Security and have no other income. Many of the kids on the bus have no other transportation. The increase is budget busting.

    Everytime FARES and fees go up for any services it hits the middleclass and the poor the hardest. I see this as a regressive tax that the rich don’t have to pay.

    Maybe you miss the point of PUBLIC transportation. In Europe it is often free. In fact, in some cities you can’t park downtown because they don’t offer parking. You have to take public transit. In some Holland cities they have parking garages for bikes and motorbikes only, not for cars. Europe ENCOURAGES people to use public transportation because it’s the SMART thing to do.

    Public transportation saves gas, keeps cars off the street, cuts down on pollution, enables people who can’t drive to get around, and so on.

    I pay a lot in taxes. I’m sick and tired of my money getting wasted in the middle east or given away to the rich while mine/our safety nets get slashed. Compared to other industrialized nations the USA ranks about 18th in education. That is PATHETIC and SHAMEFUL. We should be number 1. I can think of so many other way I want my taxes to be used.

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  12. Grapevines says:

    Bill me says, “We should all be horrified by our lack of leadership at the County.”

    Bill me, I’m not horrified by it, I’m disgusted by it.

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  13. Jean Anderson says:

    More prevarication from Mockingbird.

    No one says the poor don’t pay taxes, such as sales and gas taxes. What is true is that most poor do not pay FEDERAL INCOME taxes. Got it?

    A bus fare increase is not a tax – it’s a fare increase. And it’s a mistake that hurts the poor.

    Fare is spelled as shown, not fairs.

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  14. Judy Waters says:

    Increasing building fees is a great way for Sonoma County to raise building costs to the homeowners living in the county. The fees are already too high for a remodel, room add on, or to build a new home.

    Are the members of the Board of Supervisors sensitive to any of this? No, they are the 1% who really don’t care about the little people who try to improve their lives and homes.

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  15. Canthisbe says:

    “Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index was flat for the seventh straight month in February, at a level of 99″.

    Well, raising the cost of everything will fix that.

    “Director Caryl Hart told supervisors about other efforts underway to generate money, including the creation of new pay stations in 14 regional parks. Also under consideration are ways to encourage park users to pay day-use fees rather than walking in from adjacent streets.

    Supervisor Shirlee Zane said she noticed the frustrating trend on weekend trips to the park. “We are aggressively working on this issue, I can assure you,” Hart said.”

    So we need some kind of taxes to keep those darn people from walking to their parks. How about some higher taxes on hiking and walking shoes?

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  16. Bill me says:

    Neither the Supervisors, or their staff, care about anything, and I mean ANYTHING, other than maintaining a broken system that rewards only the County personnel. There is zero regard for businesses, bus riders, park patrons, or anybody not receiving a salary and pension from the County. Incompetence is rewarded while the Supes just keep giving direction to staff to screw the public. Too bad for us. The only reason the PD reports there was little opposition, was because the County staff keeps everything secret and hidden from the public. Oh but the high paid department heads must be coddled, protected, and rewarded far beyond their value and worth to the public. We should all be horrified by our lack of leadership at the County.

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  17. Jim Bennett says:

    Trying to meet another ‘ICLEI Milestone’
    We pay more, you get more.

    I think it’s time for a new ‘milestone’.

    Insanity: ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’.

    Does that apply to doing nothing?

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  18. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Raising the rates on the bus fairs will cause a hardship for people who take the bus because they can’t afford a car or can no longer drive. Lots of disabled, elderly, students, low income, hispanics taking the buses. Students take the bus because they don’t live near their schools and schools don’t offer the busing services they used to.

    As someone who takes the bus frequently, I can afford the increase, but lots and lots of riders can’t. Again, it’s a regressive “tax” on the poor. People keep saying the poor don’t pay taxes, but they certainly do.

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