Riverside User Fees and Charges Study

Published: 05/10/2022



Welcome to the City of Riverside’s User Fees & Charges Study project site.

Fee studies help manage the City's growth-related fiscal challenges by aligning supply and demand, reducing subsidization, setting realistic expectations for cost recovery, properly funding needed programs, and creating greater transparency within the community for citywide services.

Here you will find the latest information regarding project news, status, upcoming community outreach events, timelines, and other valuable resources to track progress as we consider important updates to our user fees, charges, and services provided to our community.

Customer being helped at the One Stop Shop

What is a User Fee & Charges Study? 

A User Fees & Charges Study is a review of the City’s existing fees for services excluding rate-based fees like electric, water, refuse, sewer, and parking. The study involves multiple Departments and identifies the cost of providing services and comparing the result to the current fee amount to determine whether it’s recovering the full cost of the service provided. The fee study also provides an opportunity to add new fee recommendations or remove outdated fees or services.

The City has engaged MGT Consulting Group (MGT) to determine the City’s full costs for each of the services the City provides. Costs for services include everything from labor and materials, to contracts and licenses, to the maintenance or replacement of equipment, vehicles and facilities, office supplies, and more.


Why is a fee study needed now?

A fee study is typically performed by local governments every 3-5 years to adjust user fees and charges to changing costs and circumstances. The last fee study the City completed was more than five (5) years ago, given major disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, and was adopted by the City Council in 2016. The City is impacted by cost increases and inflationary pressures on labor, materials and supplies.

This fee study uses cost assumptions reflected in the City’s fiscal year 2020/2021 budget as a baseline, which was developed prior to the more considerable – and hopefully temporary – rise in costs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will ensure that the City does not establish fees based on inflated costs in an unusual economic environment.


Scope of this Fee Study

The scope of this study encompasses a review and calculation of the user fees listed in the existing Master Fees and Charges Schedule and charged by the following City of Riverside Departments:

Children learning how to code at the library
  • City Clerk
  • Community & Economic Development (Building, Planning, Code Enforcement and Arts & Cultural Affairs Divisions)
  • Finance
  • Fire
  • Library
  • Parks, Recreation and Community Services
  • Police
  • Public Works (excluding Public Parking)

The Museum of Riverside is currently closed for renovation; Museum fees will be reviewed and adjusted when the Museum reopens.


Community and Stakeholder Engagement

The City Council, Mayor and City staff are committed to engaging Riverside’s community in a meaningful, accountable, responsive, and equitable way. Community engagement is defined as the range of opportunities for public involvement in the decision-making process, relationship building, and community strengthening. Community engagement is achieved when the community is and feels a part of a process.

Community engagement processes support the delivery of all outcome areas identified in the Envision Riverside 2025 Strategic Plan. Examples of engagement through the User Fees & Charges Study process will include general overview workshops, focused topic workshops with key stakeholders (i.e. development fees, recreational user fees, etc.) and other meetings as requested. The term “stakeholder” defines community groups or individuals who are directly impacted by, involved with, or interested in, the City’s decision-making, relationship building or community strengthening process.

The City will hold a series of workshops and focus group discussions to gather stakeholder feedback, which will ultimately be incorporated into staff’s recommendations to City Council prior to fee adoption. Sign up below to receive workshop notifications and the latest updates from the Fees and Charges Study.

Keep Me Updated


Who is the Project Lead? 

The Finance Department is leading this collaborative citywide project; however, each department’s fees, services and stakeholders are unique. Therefore, subject matter experts (SMEs) from each Department are included as a part of the comprehensive project team. In support of the Finance Department, the consultant and each Department’s SME will be available to help answer any questions while also attending public meetings throughout the engagement process.

For questions or comments please contact:
[email protected]
(951) 826-5454


Proposed Schedule and Timeline:

The Fees and Charges Study was temporarily placed on hold pending the hiring of a new City Manager. The Study will resume in the Summer of 2023 with a complete data refresh capturing the current cost of services provided, with the goal of adopting new fees during fiscal year 2023/24.


Terms to Know

A user fee is a fee charged to the user for a service (such as the issuance of a building permit or a business license) provided by a government agency when the cost of providing that service, and the benefits that service provides, are mainly attributed to that specific person or user. The fee is typically based upon the cost the agency incurs in providing the service but may be set at less than the full cost of providing the service for practical or policy reasons.

If the fee is set at a rate lower than the cost of providing the service, then the difference must be covered, or subsidized, by general government revenues like taxes. In some cases, like the Library and Parks, Recreation and Community Services Departments, these services provide broad public benefits and improve the quality of life and thus may be set below the cost of recovery. Other services, particularly development-related fees like building permits and entitlements, mainly benefit those seeking the services and, in general, should be set to full cost recovery.

When governments use general revenues like taxes to pay for services that mainly provide private benefit to individuals (and therefore constitute a subsidy), this limits funds that can be used to provide other community-wide benefits. In effect, the government would be using community funds to pay for private benefit.

Charging users for services that provide private benefit to recover the cost of providing such service ensures general revenues remain available for community-wide needs.

The basic concept of a User Fee Study is to determine the “reasonable cost” of each service provided for which the City charges a user fee. The full cost of providing a service may not necessarily become the user fee, but it serves as the objective basis as to the maximum amount that may be collected.

In California, user fees are required to conform to the statutory requirements of the California Constitution, Proposition 218, and the California Code of Regulations. The law also requires that the City Council adopt fees by either ordinance or resolution, which is an act of local lawmaking. Any fees set higher than the estimated total cost of providing the related services must be approved by a popular vote of two-thirds of voters because the charge would then be considered a tax and not a fee.

The User Fees and Charges study is consistent with the City’s Strategic Plan. The study supports cross-cutting threads of “Fiscal Responsibility”; “Sustainability and Resiliency”; “Equity”; and “Community Trust”; as well as the “High Performing Government” strategic priority and goal 5.4: Achieve and maintain financial health by addressing gaps between revenues and expenditures and aligning resources with strategic priorities to yield the greatest impact.

Click Here to learn about the City's Envision Riveside Strategic Plan

The fee study also includes a survey that compares similar fees charged by other local government agencies around Southern California. The purpose of the comparative study is to help identify cost similarities and differences between agencies. This information provides additional data to help make informed decisions about proposed fee adjustments, cost allocation, and the resulting effect on City revenue. The following cities or counties were selected for the comparison study based on their proximity, similarity of operations, demographics, size, and degree of urban development:   

Comparisons will include various development related fees as well as community service fees to the greatest extent possible.

Riverside Fire and PD
  • City of Anaheim 
  • City of Corona 
  • County of Riverside 
  • City of Long Beach 
  • City of Moreno Valley 
  • City of Pasadena 

Frequently Asked Questions  

As the City of Riverside seeks to efficiently manage limited resources and adequately respond to increased service demands, it needs a variety of tools. These tools provide assurance that the City has the best information and the best resources available to make sound decisions, fairly and legitimately set fees, maintain compliance with state law and local policies, and meet the needs of the City administration and its constituency.

The City recognizes that a User Fee Study is a cost-effective way to understand the total cost of services and identify potential fee deficiencies. Essentially, a User Fee is a payment for a requested service provided by a local government that primarily benefits an individual or group. The total cost of each service included in this analysis is based on the reasonable full cost of providing City services, including direct salaries and benefits of City staff, direct departmental costs, and indirect costs from central service support. This study determines the full cost recovery fee for the City to provide each service; however, each fee is set at the City’s discretion, up to 100% of the total cost.

The principal goal of the study is to help the City determine the full cost of the services that the City provides. In concert with that goal, MGT established a series of additional objectives including:

  • Developing a rational basis for setting fees;
  • Identifying subsidy amount, if applicable, of each fee in the model;
  • Ensuring compliance with State law;
  • Developing an updatable and comprehensive list of fees; and
  • Maintaining accordance with City policies and goals

The study results will help the City better understand its true costs of providing services and will serve as a basis for making informed policy decisions regarding the most appropriate fees, if any, to collect from individuals and organizations that require individualized services from the City.

City Departments – Those providing the service and collecting the fee 

Customers – Those receiving and paying for the service, including the business community, developers, and community at large. Includes various community groups, such as the Chambers of Commerce. 

City residents – Evaluating fee subsidies from general revenues results in less funding for other necessities, such as park maintenance, library services, and public safety.

City Council – Responsible for approval of fee updates and policy setting for fees and any applicable fee subsidies. Policy considerations for establishing full cost recovery or fee subsidies include, but are not limited to: economic development, visibility of the service to the community, desire to subsidize a certain product or service and to remove barriers.

City boards & commissions – Boards and commissions like the Board of Library Trustees, Park and Recreation Commission, and Budget Engagement Committee will review and make recommendations about the fees to the City Council.

The City intends to conduct extensive community outreach on this topic in alignment with the Draft Community Engagement Policy which will be considered by the City Council in the near future. A series of workshops and focus groups will be conducted to share the purpose of the study, review existing fees and preliminary fee recommendations, and gather stakeholder feedback, which will ultimately be incorporated into staff’s recommendations to City Council prior to fee adoption. The hybrid workshops (virtual and in person) will also provide a forum for the community to offer ideas about how to simultaneously enhance the competing needs of cost recovery, equity, and accessibility – particularly with parks, recreation, and library fees.

Workshop dates and times will be posted as they become available.

Sign up below to receive workshop notifications and the latest updates from the Fees and Charges Study.

Keep Me Updated

Residents, customers, developers and stakeholders are strongly encouraged to participate in public meetings or provide comments to the Project Lead.

[email protected]
(951) 826-5454