SLO County will likely return years worth of fire fees collected from Oceano, Los Osos, and Santa Margarita. The county collected the fees from builders in those areas. The fees went into county coffers when they should have been returned to each community service district.
The supervisors adopted an ordinance to collect fire fees in the 1990s, said David Edge, county administrative officer. â€œThe ordinance language didnâ€™t specifically exclude those areas,â€? he said. â€œFees were collected and nobody was ever the wiser about it.â€?
Recent complaints from Nipomo that it was not receiving its fair share of fees collected by the county generated a review of the countyâ€™s fire-fee system by other CSDs, said Edge.
The Supervisorâ€™s staff found that the collection of the fees was legal, although not intended. â€œThe way the ordinance was written, it was legal,â€? said Edge. If it the feels were illegally collected then the County would be forced to return the money to the individual builders. This would have presented serious problems as to whom to return the money to. Because the collection was legal, the County will not have to track down developers or builders that might not even live in the area anymore.
â€œThe right thing to do is to offer [the collected fees] as a block of money to the CSD areas,â€? said Edge. The returned money will be used toward helping the fire departments. â€œ[The County] is basically going to cut them a check,â€? he said. â€œI expect that will happen sooner rather than later, perhaps in a couple weeks.â€?