Dropoff in building fees squeezes city budgets

| Print |  Email
Archives - February 2009
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

Closing the Gap: The two Oregons and the way forward

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

"Nostalgia is not an economic strategy."


Read more...

LEED for weed

News
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
012815-potcarbon-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions? An NEBC energy forum breakfast makes the case for taking the new industry’s emissions impacts seriously.


Read more...

5 companies react to lower fuel prices

The Latest
Thursday, January 15, 2015
thumb-shutterstock 233787049BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Consumers love the savings they get from low oil prices, but how has business been affected?


Read more...

7 industry trends of 2015

The Latest
Friday, January 09, 2015
covertrends15-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Industry groups identify top trends for 2015.


Read more...

The short list: Holiday habits of six Oregon CEOs

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121214-xmaslist1BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask business and nonprofit leaders how they survive the season.


Read more...

MBA Perspective

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Robin Anderson, dean of the Pamplin School of Business, University of Portland: "You need people who are comfortable leading in ambiguity."


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


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