NBS was retained by the City of Carlsbad to provide a User Fee Study for Fire Prevention Services. The fees in question had not been comprehensively reviewed in approximately 20 years. In addition to needing an independent assessment of the City’s fee structure to ensure that the fees collected were in line with the cost of providing the applicable community services, the City also wished to increase financial transparency for the community and City decision makers.

Because the fees had not been reviewed or revised in such a long time, the situation required a thorough and independent review that incorporated community input and worked with planned updates to the City’s permitting software and fee collection processes. This was a multi-phase modernization effort that called for in-depth understanding of the delicate balance between community value and operational efficiency.

NBS’s experience with fire prevention fee analysis throughout the State of California helped the City update its fees to make sure that the costs of providing services were adequately reflected. In particular, NBS was able to:

  • Gather data to identify the total cost of services as well as the estimated amount of time required to complete each service for which a fee could be charged
  • Define the percentage of annual costs recovered by existing fees and recommend fee changes to account for these costs
  • Clarify and improve the City’s fee structure for development application review and processing
  • Incorporate improvements suggested by the City’s Fire Marshall
  • Improve transparency for the community and decision makers

In the end, the study was essential to clearly connect the cost of services to the fees that pay for them, in order to engender consensus on the changes that the City of Carlsbad needed to make. When the Fee Study was complete, the City Council unanimously approved implementation of the new fees, and it also received notable support from the local development community in the final public hearing.

For more information, please contact: Nicole Kissam, Director – Financial Consulting Group