Permit & Inspection Fees on DeKalb Council Agenda Tonight

I’ve isolated the comparison charts for you and put them after the jump (or you could teleport to the agenda instead and go to page 5 of the PDF file).

First, though, I’d like to spend a minute on city staff members’ reasons for requesting approval of new fees and fee hikes:

The changes of these and others are recommended at this time as it is convenient to do so with full implementation of financial tracking software.

So: We are doing this now because it’s convenient for us.

The CPI increases of building permit fees since 2003 has not kept pace in some cases for present day inspector rates of approximately $60 per hour including overhead. Also since 2003 more commercial activity occurred to track anecdotal information that inspection time for instance is significant for large amperage commercial building electrical services with intricate electrical cabinet circuits to inspect for code compliance. Other recommended fees are new to account for recent national or state building code requirements or to account for outsourcing for expedited plan reviews or in-house reviews not previously charged for having more than incidental review time.

More reasons: We pay our inspectors a whole lot. We finally figured out the real costs of some of the inspections. We’ve discovered there are more things we can charge for.

None of the above makes up an entirely bad rationale for the hike, but I certainly hope the council also takes up questions of customer-oriented policy, such as:

  • Is it appropriate to raise permit fees for porches, pergolas and patios if we want to encourage residents to improve their properties?

  • If safety is the ultimate goal of permitting, can we tie fee hikes to stepped-up code enforcement, starting with the people who don’t bother with permits?

  • Could a portion of the increased revenues be earmarked for software to streamline the permitting process?

  • Beyond questions of service-oriented policy there are financial concerns to ponder, not the least of which is the potential addition to the drip, drip, drip of fee, fine and tax increases that further erode the spending power of a struggling community.

    Also, according to the memo accompanying the Committee of the Whole meeting agenda, fees already have increased annually to keep up with inflation since 2003, yet today we’re looking at additional permit and inspection hikes of 25%, 50%, 100% and more to cover our costs. That’s pretty scary.

    The images below didn’t turn out very well. Sorry about that. (Here, again, is an alternative.) If you do click on pics below, watch for the magnifier icon (lower right hand corner) and hit it a couple times to enlarge them.

    permit hikes 1 of 2 photo permitfeehikes1of2_zps68468e1c.jpg

    permit hikes 2 of 2 photo permitfeehikes2of2_zps82b679f2.jpg