By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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.