Santa Barbara County supervisors to consider raising cannabis business license fees


Raising cannabis business license fees and allowing electronic filing of election campaign statements are two issues that the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will face when it convenes Tuesday following a monthlong holiday hiatus.

The board will also hear reports on the new supervisorial district boundaries and the status of the COVID-19 pandemic when members convene at 9 a.m. in the hearing room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

The meeting will be open to the public, with masks and social distancing required, but it will also be streamed by CSBTV on the board’s website and YouTube.

The board is expected to spend an estimated 45 minutes discussing amendments to the business licensing process that will allow the county to recover the full cost involved in processing applications.

For most applicants, the new fixed deposits would increase the cost of filing an application over the current deposit and the average amount the county currently receives from each one.

However, in a few categories the funds required up-front would be lower than the average currently collected.

Some members of the public have repeatedly urged supervisors to be sure fees assessed in the cannabis permitting and licensing process be enough to cover the costs involved, particularly in relation to compliance checks and enforcement activities.

Proposed fee changes reflect more than three years of monitoring costs incurred and revenues generated through the process, according to a staff report prepared by fiscal and policy analyst Steven Yee and principal analyst Brittany Heaton.

“The revised fixed fees reflect a more robust, active compliance program with updated hours from each of the compliance team departments as well as response to complaints,” the report says.

According to the report, the three fee deposits currently being collected from applicants do not cover the actual costs involved because they were based on departmental estimates of the time involved in processing applications back in 2018.

Since then, staff salaries and benefits have increased, and the county has gotten a better handle on the time individual departments have to spend processing the applications.

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In addition, neither the County Fire Department nor the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District were included in the cost calculations but now will be, according to the report.

Moving the business license renewal application and compliance fees from a deposit fee to a fixed fee method will reduce the time and effort spent on administering the system and will provide applicants with more certainty regarding total costs, the report said.

“Annual compliance fees reflect the estimated time staff will spend performing site visits at prescribed intervals throughout the year,” the report says. “The current deposit fee was based on minimum compliance activities.”

The current deposit fee for initial applications is $3,250 for all categories — with $4,301 the average collected from each applicant — and that deposit method will continue.

“The fee for initial applications, whether in process or new, will remain a deposit fee structure due to the significant number of applications that have already been submitted and that are currently in process,” the report says.

In addition, the staff doesn’t expect to receive many new applications because those submitted have already exceeded the county’s acreage cap.

Under the new rates, the initial application deposit fees would range from $3,697 for testing labs and retail operations to $5,758 for mixed-light and indoor cultivation and nurseries, manufacturing and distribution businesses in the unincorporated areas.

Fees in the Carpinteria overlay would be a few hundred dollars less.

The current annual compliance management fee is $2,500 for all categories, but under the new schedule, fees would range from $2,976 to $4,276.

The current fee for annual renewals is $3,600 for all categories, but that would range from $3,186 to $4,896 under the new schedule.


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