The cost of permit fees in the city may be going up.
City Codes Department Administrator Joseph Gerardi Wednesday proposed raising fees the department collects such as those from contractors when building permits are required, or whenever apartments need to be inspected, or zoning hearings for variances, land developments and lot consolidations need to be scheduled.
"Other cities are (raising fees) yearly by resolution," Gerardi said during a discussion with the city finance committee Wednesday. "We haven't raise our fee structure since 2007." Costs would increase from 3 to 15 percent, he added.
For example, the cost for a zoning hearing, which is $150, would be $200. "It's about a 9-percent increase since 2007," he said. "That's why we intend to look at all fees each year so it's not a large increase."
Asked for the reason why the increases are necessary, Gerardi said the codes department isn't in the business of earning money but rather is there to protect the public safety and keep commerce flowing.
"If we generate $400,000 from building permits, that's not profit that's costs to operate," he said. The department's operating costs each year are about $600,000, and the difference of $200,000 - is a loss, he said.
Gerardi said the increases would account for the cost of living increases, insurance, pay raises, and general costs such as higher costs to pay for paperwork and computers.
The committee did not take a vote. City Councilman Jonathan Williamson, chairman, said it may be worthwhile to explore measuring the fee structure automatically each year based on the rate of inflation.
Gerardi hinted that he liked that idea.
Fees for smaller house repairs also were discussed.
Whenever the codes department charges a fee for a repair of a toilet, for instance, most individuals hire a master plumber, who also collects a wage and charges costs to the homeowner.
For such minor jobs, the permit fee is $35, Gerardi said. "That fee could be eliminated in some cases," he said. "We might not require a permit fee but the homeowner would still need professional help from a master plumber or contractor who is certified to work in the state," he said. "That alone would save them $50 in some cases." That gets the homeowner a quality job and free the codes personnel up to do more beneficial work in the city, Gerardi said.
The adjustments of the fees goes before the finance committee once more before it moves onto City Council for a vote.
Gerardi said he anticipated the vote to take place at the end of January and the any adjustments in the ordinance setting the fee schedule to go into effect in February.