PETITION TO PREVENT MONTEREY COUNTY FROM INCREASING LAKE NACIMIENTO DOCK AND SLIP FEES
We, the undersigned, are citizens and residents who vehemently oppose Monterey County’s plan to increase the fees it charges for docks, slips and safety booms on Lake Nacimiento by as much as 567-650%, and to impose an unconscionable fine of $500.00 per day for non-compliance.
By signing this petition, we are expressing our anger with this unfair and unreasonable scheme, which is not only ill-timed, but also outrageous, given the state of Ranger and lake management services which have steadily and substantially declined in recent years. We view the increase in fees and the punishment for non-compliance as yet another attack on the availability of recreation at Lake Nacimiento, especially since it is being thrust upon us at a time when most of our docks have been stranded on dry land because of the excessive water releases by Monterey County during the past two years. Furthermore, it is unfair to charge us a fee each year whether or not we even put a dock in the water due to family or health issues, necessary repairs, etc. Most importantly, this fee increase is motivated by pure retaliation against efforts to promote as well as to protect recreation and clearly amounts to taxation without representation inasmuch as everyone who lives at the lake is a resident of San Luis Obispo County and thus have no ability to vote in Monterey County.
Monterey County is justifying this increase based on a perfunctory study it performed inhouse, dated August 27, 2020, without benefit of outside consultation. However, this deeply flawed study does not support the proposal that such an exorbitant increase is necessary to recover the reasonable cost of services to be rendered. For example, job titles with no clear connection to docks, such as “resource hydrologist,” or “engineering aide,” are listed as components of dock costs. These jobs are associated with activities related to general administrative overhead and should not be counted as part of the cost of administering a dock program.
The study also maintains that the fees are “exempt” from Propositions 218 and 26. These Propositions, which cannot be altered by Monterey County, are statewide initiatives regulating government fees and mandate that fees shall not exceed the cost of service. They shift the burden of proof to Monterey County to show compliance. A review of the study indicates Monterey County does not meet its burden of showing the proposed fees are related to the reasonable cost of services because the fees far exceed the cost. Just because Monterey County has a cost does not justify recovering that cost with a fee imposed on us — the fee has to be reasonable and related to the service.
Also, the Monterey County study indicates that future increases should be tied to the consumer price index (“CPI”). However, Propositions 218/26 only allow fee increases to reflect actual changes in costs; the CPI does not reflect actual changes in these costs. Moreover, if Monterey County’s real costs are reflected in the study, then it proves the lake is mismanaged insofar as the proposed fees greatly exceed the dock fees at other recreational lakes. An increase such as those being proposed here would only encourage continued mismanagement. Monterey County’s failure to make incremental fee increases over time is its own fault. Dock owners and users should not be punished with a sudden and burdensome cost to compensate for this lack of foresight.
We demand that Monterey County, if it does increase these fees, does so by reasonable and incremental amounts to ensure fairness, and that the fees be tied to demonstrable costs. We further demand that Monterey County either eliminate the appalling fine for non-compliance or propose one that is based on rationality and commonsense.