CRESTVIEW — Revising the city's permitting fee schedule would help bridge disparity between fees collected and the Building Permitting and Inspections Department’s actual expenses, city building official Jonathan Bilby said.
For several months, Bilby has been conducting a comprehensive overhaul of his department's fee schedule.
His proposal, presented to the City Council during a workshop Monday, includes increases that would bring Crestview's permitting and inspections fees more in line with other Okaloosa County communities.
Bilby's research began after it became apparent that fees currently charged to developers were insufficient to cover the expense of reviewing plans and inspecting construction.
"We had a significant shortfall and we realized we were relying on tax revenue," Bilby said.
Taxpayer funds — an average of $65,000 per year over the last four years — made up the difference.
Bilby said he analyzed regional permitting fees and found the fee for a 1,200-square-foot building ranged from more than $300 in Crestview to $1,200 elsewhere in the county.
The proposed new fee schedule is "a more fair, across-the-board fee structure," he said, and represents the median of regional fees.
Councilman Thomas Gordon questioned the wisdom of raising fees.
"If we're trying so hard to encourage businesses to come in, do we want to raise permit fees?" he said.
Council President Robyn Helt said she wondered whether the city is needlessly requiring permits for small projects "that don't amount to a hill of beans."
She cited an $81 permit she purchased to put a prefabricated shed in her backyard to house her lawnmower.
"Are there other things like that that we're charging for that could be eliminated and save city inspectors a burden and the resident the burden?" Helt said.
Bilby agreed to review the small home improvement permits, but cautioned that eliminating them might cause problems, such as an improperly secured shed blowing into a neighbor's home during a hurricane.
He asked the council to review his proposed fee schedule and consider approving it in time for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.