In a rare show of fiscal tax and fee restraint, the San Luis Obispo City Council rejected fee hikes requested by city staffers. The council unanimously rejected raising golf and parking fees, but did let stand previously approved hikes for water and sewer and set the stage for potential bus fare hikes that will be voted on in the summer.
Staffers suggested raising golf fees to help close a nearly $300,000 gap in the Laguna Lake Golf Course budget. The vote to reject that increase came after impassioned testimony by the Laguna Lake Ladies Golf Club, two of whom were spry 91-year-olds.
City staffers also suggested raising the cost of garage parking spaces by 25 cents to a dollar an hour. Council members rejected the suggestion, saying they preferred to have a 50-cent gap between the cheaper garage parking and the more expensive inner downtown core parking.
The City Council will have a chance to raise or hold the line on bus fares this summer. Staffers want to increase fares 25 cents a ride to $1.50 and eliminate free transfers, a move that could more than double the cost of a trip across town.
The parking fee increase would have helped to pay for a $20 million parking structure to be located at the intersection of Palm and Nipomo streets. This project is being pushed through despite the fact that residents used the existing parking structures 5 percent less last year than the year before. Street meters were used 11 percent more than the year before, and city parking lots were used 9 percent more. Many of those lots will disappear when the Chinatown and Garden Street Terraces projects are built.
Sewer rates are also going up 9 percent and water rates 11 percent July 1.
Councilmember Andrew Carter said that when the Nacimiento water project was sold to the public, there were supposed to be five or six years of water fee increases and then the charges would drop back to normal. The fees have doubled in the last five years, he said, and there is no end in sight to increases.
“The natives will get restless,” Carter said as he warned staffers that rates couldn’t rise forever. “I’m a native, and I’m getting restless.”