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News, City Council, Fire Department, Election, Santa Monica

New Fees Proposed For Santa Monica Election Nomination Papers, False Alarms

Posted Jun. 21, 2013, 9:12 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Santa Monica’s Biennial Budget is finally coming up for a vote next week. With City officials predicting budget deficits as early as 2015, several fees have been proposed to help increase revenues into City Hall and help Santa Monica keep its bookkeeping as balanced as possible.

Two such fees will be on the dais June 25, as Council members will be considering fees for candidates of various elected positions within Santa Monica and fines for responses to false alarms.

Under one proposed ordinance, those seeking to be a candidate in one of the City’s local races would have to pay to the filing of nomination papers and handling of candidate statements. A potential candidate may have to pay as much as $325: $25 for nomination papers and $300 for printing and handling of candidate statements – to run for City Council, Rent Control Board, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, and Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.

The $300 fee for printing and handling of candidate statements is higher than the amount previously proposed by City staff. During the city council’s Biennial Budget study session last month, it was proposed candidate pay $175 for statements. That proposed fee was upped to $300 when a consultant advised City Hall such an amount “is a common flat fee for handling of candidate statements” and staff determined “$300 would provide greater cost recovery for the City than the original $175 proposed fee.”

With an average of 22 candidates seeking an elected seat on one of Santa Monica’s four public panels, City staff determined fees might bring in $7,150 in new revenues.

According to City staff, there are no filing fees for anyone seeking to run for a city office. Council members had considered a filing fee as recent as 2011 but, according to City staff, “postponed implementation of this fee because it may discourage low income candidates from participating in the election process.”

The intent of the fees, City staff stated, would be to minimally offset “election costs paid by the City, and to create an investment into the election process by the candidate.”

City staff cited other cities where filing fees are the norm, including San Jose ($25 filing fee per candidate), Manhattan Beach ($500 for candidate statements), Thousand Oaks ($1,000 for the printing, translation, and handling of statements), Downey ($600 to $2,200 fee depending on race), Inglewood ($700 to $1,000 depending on race), Monterey Park ($2,500 printing and translation fee), and Norwalk ($2,700 printing, translation, and handling fee).

State law sets the filing fee at $25 for all municipalities.

Council members will also be voting on an ordinance to fine owners of security alarm systems almost $165 if an SMPD officer responds to a second response within the fiscal year to a false alarm.

If approved, the fine would take effect July 1.

City staff stated the fine intends to reduce the occurrence of false police alarms.

Currently, a fine is assessed on the third occurrence of a false alarm. Should this ordinance clear a second reading, security alarm owners will only be given one free pass between July 1 and June 30 of any given year to have a false alarm.

“The Police Department responded to 2,812 police alarms during fiscal year 2011-2012.  Of that total, 1,063 police alarms required two or more false alarm emergency responses during the same fiscal year,” City staff stated.

The ordinance also proposes a burglary alarm registration fee for $27. If approved, the fee would become effective July 1.

Both fees would be subject to an annual automatic Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increase.

“Registration of alarm systems would ensure correct physical addresses are automatically recorded in the police records management system, which minimizes call processing time while providing vital information, including but not limited to, information about elderly or disabled residents, firearms at the property, animals that may require special handling, and the presence of hazardous materials,” City staff stated. “Providing responding officers with this information enhances service delivery and promotes public safety.”

City staff estimates the fine for second false alarms would generate $175,246 in annual revenue for Santa Monica, while the burglary alarm registration fee could result in a positive cash flow of $151,200 each year directed toward City Hall’s coffers.

The second false alarm fee and burglary alarm registration fee are packaged together in one ordinance.

Both ordinances are up for first reading and must clear second reading two weeks later to officially become City law.

Beyond these two ordinances, council members will be voting on the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget, a Crossroads School development agreement, and two dozen items on the consent calendar.

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Jun. 22, 2013, 9:00:13 am

Lee Jones/Support Services Group said...

Good timing… to update and modernize the ordinance, not repeat the same result. NOTE, it can be unlawful in SM to levy false alarm fines to the alarm site, and uncollectible. Unlawful and uncollectible because the call for help does not come from the alarm site... it comes from the private monitoring firm, paid by the alarm site to receive and filter all sorts of signals, but follow 911 rules and only call for help for known emergencies. Sloppy monitoring procedures and outdated technology delivers "unknown signals" that require a "site inspection", not emergency police response. Time to levy the fee to the perpetrator, the monitoring source. Like Seattle, unnecessary alarm response will drop fast and fee collection will be effective.

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