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Posted on: August 8, 2019

Balanced City Budget Includes New Fees

The City Council in June approved the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, which allows key capital-improvement projects to move forward while also adding $1.2 million to the City’s reserves.

The General Fund, the City’s operating budget, includes projected revenues of $51.2 million, with expenditures are set at $49.6 million. Property taxes, the City’s largest source of revenue, are projected to increase by $1.2 million, while sales tax revenue, the second-largest income source, remains about the same as 2018-19, at $15.5 million.

The increase in property taxes is largely offset by an increase in Police Services costs of $888,200. City leaders in Lake Forest and throughout South Orange County continue to work with the Sheriff’s Department and County officials to find savings with the law-enforcement contract.

The Capital-Improvement Program budget, which funds maintenance and construction projects, includes funding for construction of Portola Park and millions of dollars for traffic-improvement projects. Among the largest is $1.1 million to improve the intersection of Bake Parkway and Trabuco Road. The project will create double-left turn lanes for eastbound Bake and add an additional right-turn/through lane on northbound Trabuco.

Overhead signs will also go up on El Toro Road to help guide motorists to the correct lanes to get on the freeway. The City will also launch a pilot project that will allow left turns at some intersections without a green turn arrow.  Between design and construction, more than a dozen traffic-improvement projects are included in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

Consultant Recommended New Fees

Following the recommendation of an analyst who performed the first review of the City’s fees in more than a dozen years, the 2019-20 budget includes some increased charges for services.

For example, the fees that credit-card companies charge the City to process electronic payments for everything from classes to permits to purchases will now be passed on to those who use credit or debit cards in transactions with the City. The processing charge is 3 percent.

The credit-card pass-through fee takes effect on August 19.

The budget also established a permit-parking fee of $20 per year for each permanent permit, which helps offset a portion of the cost to manage the permit-parking program. The permit fee takes effect January 1, 2020. Permits will be valid for the calendar year and require renewal each January. About 55 streets in the City are included in the permit-parking program.

Other fees are expected to increase in January as well, such as facility rentals and skate-park memberships.  

User fees only collect the City’s actual cost to administer specific programs. Before the increases, the programs were subsidized by the General Fund, which meant less money was available for citywide services such as public safety and capital improvements.  The new fees ensure the City maintains the many high-quality programs offered to the community while keeping the budget balance.