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By Miriam Raftery

July 8, 2015 (Santee)—The Santee City Council has voted to raise the Fire Benefit Fee for all commercial and industrial properties to a maximum of $492 per building, per year.  Parcels with multiple buildings will owe the fee for each building. The highest increase faced by any property owner would be $1,800, staff told Council.

“This is really a per building fee,” Councilman Jack Dale observed, “whether you’re 500 square feet or you’re Costco.”

Councilman Ronn Hall noted that property owners would be “real unhappy” to get a hefty bill from the city.  “I’m not going for this,” he declared.

The measure passed 3-1, with Mayor Randy Voepel casting the only “no” vote and Hall abstaining. Council members John Minto, Rob McNelis and Dale voted for the fee increase. 

The Fire Benefit Fee, which funds firefighting in Santee, has been in place since 1993.  All residential property owners pay the same amount--$41 per dwelling unit per year, and have done so since the fee’s inception.

 But a recent parcel audit and analysis of commercial/industrial properties found inconsistencies, with some charged the maximum amount of $492 and others far less.  The measure aims to make the assessment equal for all commercial/industrial buildings, though as Dale noted the measure makes no distinction on the size of the structure assessed.

Increased assessments less than $287 will be implemented in full in fiscal year 2015-2016.  Asssessments from $287 and $491 will be phased in over two years, while assessment hikes of $492 or more will be phased in over three years.

The Fire Benefit Fee is expected to bring in approximately $990,400 in fiscal year 2015-16, a $65,121 increase from the prior fiscal year.

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