At Thursday’s Development Oversight Commission meeting – the panel of builders overseeing in part an update of some of the fees charged by the Community Development Department – there was a bit of discussion over the concept of the city division being “under-expensed,” a term used by a city consultant.

That is, having more money than it can immediately spend.

Some background: The department is reviewing and updating all of its planning, engineering and fire prevention fees (building fees already have been updated). As part of the analysis, a consultant is evaluating the department’s services and workloads to see how much of the work should be charged through fees and how much should be billed to the city’s taxpayer-financed general fund.

The consultant, in a draft report, has recommended various fee changes, which would result in a net increase in revenue of $392,375. He also estimates that there is up to $791,269 in work that should be charged to taxpayers (though builders would like to see their burden eased, there’s recognition that making taxpayers pay a greater share through the general fund will be a tough sell to the City Council these days, so expect some compromise proposals).

If the proposed fee increases were applied to today’s Community Development Department budget, the consultant – Eric Johnson, vice president of Revenue and Cost Specialists LLC in Fullerton – estimates that the department would have roughly $1.4 million in revenues over expenses.

John Beckman, chairman of the oversight commission and CEO of the Building Industry Association of the Delta, asked: Is the department arguing that it isn’t spending enough money?

Johnson, however, said he prefers the term “under-expensed.” He and city officials said the figure reflects the reality in the department: It is understaffed, overworked and can’t do everything it needs to, even though it would be bringing in enough revenue.

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