Dropoff in building fees squeezes city budgets

| Print |  Email
Sunday, February 01, 2009

piggy.jpgDropoff in building fees squeezes city budgets


STATEWIDE Oregon cities big and small are grappling with a steep decline in all revenues, but none more alarming than dwindling building fees. When lending shriveled up over a year ago the building bubble burst, binding the hands of developers and stopping many new proposals dead in their tracks. The corresponding loss of fees is creating widening budget gaps for municipal governments already struggling to provide services.

The city of Ashland saw revenues through permit fees decrease from $4.1 million in fiscal year 2004-2005 to $2.1 million in fiscal year 2007-2008. Another 50% drop is expected for the current fiscal year, according to Ashland Permit Center manager Adam Hanks. As a result, one building inspector and two building and development department employees were laid off. What’s keeping Ashland afloat, Hanks says, is a $42 million school bond to update facilities.

In Portland, the slide arrived later. The total valuation of permits issued from July 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2008, dropped 26% from the year before. Portland’s building revenues had actually increased from $39.85 million in fiscal year 2006-2007 to $41.4 million in fiscal year 2007-2008, but that party ended abruptly. “We expect this year to be less than $41 million,” says Elshad Hajiyev, budget and finance section manager for Portland’s Bureau of Development Services. “It won’t even be enough to extend our expenditures.” As a result, 38 positions in the bureau have been left vacant, overtime has been eliminated and cost-saving measures are being studied.

In Baker City, permit activity is down 11% from last year, says planning director Don Chance. New housing development is slow, he says, but he’s still seeing some healthy business in remodels and additions. Baker City isn’t as fee-based as some, making it less vulnerable. And it actually runs a surplus, which it holds onto for such situations as this, says Chance.

Bend isn’t so lucky. Last year, as fee revenue trickled in slower and much less than planned, the city was forced to make budget cuts — three rounds of them to be precise. “But now we should be on track,” says Bend’s communications manager, Justin Finestone. “We cut deep early on.” A total of 44 workers were laid off in 2008, with another 55 positions left unfilled and a hiring freeze enacted.

Building fees have become increasingly vital to city governments since property taxes were limited in 1997 under Measure 50. Now that they are dwindling, municipalities are scrambling to find another cash cow to milk.   

“The long-term projections for cities are pretty bleak,” says former Hillsboro mayor Tom Hughes, past president of the League of Oregon Cities. “The amount the average city collects on the average home doesn’t pay for the costs of supplying services to that home. So we are all required to fall back on other revenues. Unfortunately, those other revenues aren’t holding up.”   

CHRIS MILLER


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

The Backstory: Portland Youth Builders

The Latest
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
blog002 1BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward  housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.


Read more...

Cherry Raincoat

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Queen of Resilience

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Astrid Scholz scales up sustainability.


Read more...

Credit Unions Perspective

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Gene Pelham, CEO of Rogue Credit Union.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS