Codified Fees, Rates, & Charges
The City of Boulder delivers numerous services to residents and businesses throughout the year. For certain services, good financial management requires the city to recover its costs, in part or in full. In general, these services are of special or unique benefit to the resident or business receiving the service, for example: building safety inspections, development review, vehicle parking, and wastewater treatment.
Similarly to households or private enterprises, city departments face cost increases related to wages and benefits, fuel, utilities, office equipment, and building renovation and repair. Cost recovery practices for the city thus include a periodic review of the fees charged to determine whether city expenditures on selected services are appropriately offset by the fee revenue collected. This review often takes place as part of the development of the budget and the city includes adjustments to fees in the budget document. Without inflation adjustments, the city would need to incrementally shift resources away from current programs to pay for services for residents or businesses receiving a special benefit.
This section provides a summary of fees, rates, or user charges codified in the Boulder Revised Code (BRC) section 4-20 for the following departments/divisions:
- Community Vitality
- Finance - Tax & License
- Planning & Development Services
The information in this section includes what the city charges in 2022, 2023 approved fees, and the annual percentage change of the fees, which are effective January 1, 2023 unless otherwise noted. For many fees in this section, the change mirrors the rate of inflation in the general level of prices in the economy, the change in construction cost indices widely used in various industries, or the result of a calculation of costs incurred by the city when the actual costs are known.
Community Vitality sets a schedule of user fees to recover a share of the cost of providing mall permits and facilities on the Pearl Street Mall. The fees are based on what the public would pay for similar services from private enterprise. The department reviews all fees annually and uses the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) projections to increase fees for the Pearl Street Mall permit and fee program.
In addition to the mall fees in section 4-20, Community Vitality sets fees for long-term parking permits in the Downtown garages and for Downtown and University Hill lots. Staff annually assesses the Downtown Commercial District (CAGID) and University Hill Commercial District (UHGID) long-term parking rates with private sector rates and makes adjustments in alignment with demand and the market. These rate changes also help CAGID and UHGID keep pace with rising expenses.
For 2023, Downtown garage permits will remain at $480 per quarter and downtown surface lots will remain at $278 per quarter. University Hill permit costs will not change for 2023.
FINANCE - TAX & LICENSE
The Finance Department charges a fee for the following seven city licenses: Auction Licenses; Circus, Carnival, and Menagerie Licenses; Hemp Licenses; Itinerant Merchant Licenses; Secondhand Dealer and Pawnbroker Licenses; Mobile Food Vehicle Sales Licenses, and Tobacco Licenses. In 2022, all license fees, except the newest license types of Hemp and Tobacco, increased by the amount of the CPI, rounded up to the nearest whole dollar.
City Licensing has taken on the state’s portion of review for local only special event liquor permit processing. For three city licenses, City Licensing has added a necessary fee and now completes the background check work which was previously completed by the Police Department. As a result, for three of these licenses (Auction, Itinerant Merchant, and Secondhand Dealer/Pawnbroker), the city charges an additional $7 fee for each employee of the applicant business subject to an on-line background check through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to review for assessment of criminal operation concerns.
In addition, City Licensing coordinates Medical and Recreational Marijuana Business licensing, in collaboration with Police, Fire, Planning Code Enforcement, and the City Attorney’s Office, collecting and reviewing citywide expenditures, to allow for determination of reasoned and concrete rationale before suggesting any changes to those license fees. Liquor Licensing fees are set and capped by the State Liquor Code and State Rules.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
Impact Fees and the Transportation Excise Tax
In November 2016, City Council approved increases to development excise taxes (DETs) and impact fees, which help pay for new growth. Excise taxes and impact fees are one-time charges to fund capital improvements necessitated by new development, helping the city build new facilities, purchase equipment such as fire trucks, develop multi-modal transportation facilities, and support affordable housing. The updated tax and fee changes went into effect on July 1, 2017. The maximum amount the city can charge as an excise tax is limited by the amounts approved by voters.
In 2023, P&DS proposes to adjust the impact fees and the residential Transportation Excise Tax by an inflationary factor, using the Engineering News Record cost index and the prior year’s Consumer Price Index, respectively. The first table below demonstrates the impact the changes would have on three types of development scenarios.
Affordable Housing Commercial Linkage Fee
On May 1, 2018 the City Council adopted changes to the affordable housing commercial linkage fee, also known as the affordable housing capital facility impact fee. The linkage fee was phased in with adopted amounts over a 3-year period (2019-2021) for non-residential development. Starting in 2022, the linkage fee was increased by an inflationary factor like other impact fees, and an inflationary increase is again recommended for 2023. Qualified non-profits and developments with affordable commercial space are eligible for reduced rates.
Utility Rate, Specific Service Charges, and Fee Changes:
The city owns and operates three utilities: water, wastewater, and stormwater/flood management. Each utility operates as a self-supporting enterprise fund and assesses a variety of rates, charges, and fees to ensure revenues are sufficient to meet operating, maintenance and capital costs and to maintain the financial integrity of each utility. Revenues generated from customers’ monthly utility bills are the largest revenue source for each utility, accounting for 80 to 95 percent of total revenues.
The monthly customer bill for water and wastewater services includes a quantity charge based on the volume of use and a fixed service charge based on meter size. Most of the costs associated with the water and wastewater utilities are fixed and the fixed portion of the bill helps support revenue stability and more equitable distribution of costs. The variable portion of the bill is intended to provide a price signal to incentivize efficient water use and helps cover the additional costs the city incurs related to peak demand periods.
Comparing bills from year-to-year is a challenge due to the impact weather has on utility bills. In relatively wet and cooler summers, bills will be lower due to reduced outdoor use. Not including weather impacts, customer bill changes are generally a result of rate increases to fund additional infrastructure investment, keep pace with inflation, and meet regulatory requirements. The following table shows estimates of the effects on total utility bills for three sample customer types:
- Single Family Inside City Residential account with an average winter consumption of 4,000 gallons, total annual water consumption of 90,000 gallons and irrigable area of 5,200 square feet. For stormwater charges, the account has 3,000 square feet of impervious area;
- Inside City Commercial- Restaurant account with a 1” meter, 412,000 gallons of annual consumption, and 7,000 square feet of impervious area; and
- Inside City Commercial - Hotel with a 3” meter, 3,200,000 gallons of annual consumption, and 153,000 square feet of impervious area.
Utilities also assesses charges to new customers and customers increasing use of utility infrastructure, which includes fees for physical connections or “taps” into city-owned pipes. The charges are set at a level that recovers costs of providing services. Changes in the fees are generally attributable to cost changes in equipment, materials, fleet, and personnel costs. The table below displays the changes to fees paid by typical users of these services.