County looks at raising fees

Officials: higher rates help cover some costs

Gazette file photo
A family pitches their tent at a a local park. Persons wanting to camp at Washington County Parks could face some higher fees if the Board of Commissioners approves a proposed 2013 fee schedule. The board holds a public hearing on fees at their Dec. 18 meeting.

The costs of doing business with Washington County could be higher next year.

Fees for numerous county services ranging from lists and data files produced by Information Technology to remote web access for Property Records and Taxpayer Services information to county park campsite and shelters and maps and maps and plat reviews could increase if the Board of Commissioners adopts a proposed 2013 fee schedule.

Commissioners held a 30-minute workshop with several department heads to learn about some of the significant proposed 2013 fee increases. County Administrator Molly O’Rourke said a public hearing on the proposed fees is scheduled for the Dec. 18 board meeting.

The most direct impact of the proposed higher fees felt by county residents involves Washington County Parks campsites and shelters. Parks Director John Elholm said his department seeks modest fee increases, and in one instance, is reducing the fee for the St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park conference cottage by $50.

Elholm said the Parks Department proposes raising the basic weekend campsite fee to $18 from the current $15. Other proposed fee increases are for modern electric, modern electric and water and modern electric, water and sewer campsites on weekdays and weekends and a $5 fee increase for group campsites on Friday and Saturday nights.

Elholm said the popular Lake Elmo Park Reserve large shelters would go up $25 to $125 on weekdays and $50 to $275 on weekends.

“Those are the shelters where we have people wait in line for,” he said.

Other fee increases are proposed for the Cottage Grove Ravine Park small shelter on weekdays and weekends.

Elholm also said the Parks Department proposes fees of $300 on Mondays through Thursdays and $600 Fridays and Saturdays for the St. Croix Bluffs nordic center during the center’s off-season. He added that his department is already seeing increased interest from people wanting to rent the nordic center for weddings.

County Surveyor Michael Welling said Washington Public Works wants to simplify map pricing by replacing the department’s current price list with a price table in round dollar amounts and increasing plat fees charged to developers to better reflect the county’s costs.

Welling said the new map price table bases costs on the print size and components selected. Sizes range from 11-by-17 inches to 36-by-48 inches and components include parcel lines, aerial photo and topography.

“We sell a wide variety of maps with a lot of data,” he said. “We used to charge sales tax. We don’t charge sales tax now.”

Welling said WPW proposes increasing plat review fees for several reasons: there has been no fee increase since 2002 and current fees are not covering review costs, which subsidizes development and places the burden on other taxpayers, according to Welling.

Two sets of plat fees are proposed, one covering a small number of plats and another for higher number of plats. In both cases, Welling said the new proposed fees brings Washington County in line with plat fees charged by Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

In both plat situations, Welling said developers would have plats undergo three reviews before the plats are recorded.

“Fees collected will cover a larger percentage of costs,” Welling said. “A larger percentage of actual costs will be paid by developers-users rather than taxpayers. The anticipated revenue increase of $5,500 was factored into the 2013 (WPW) department budget.

Some fees charged for county services can mean big business for the county. IT Director Mjyke Nelson said the county receives $20,000 a year from businesses getting PSTR information sent to them daily by the IT Department.