BDS submitted its fiscal year (FY) 2014-15 Requested Budget and updated 5-Year Financial Plan to the City Budget Office on February 3, 2014. These documents provide updates on BDS’s financial status and highlight our strategic direction and financial goals.
As in past years, we sought input on our budget decisions from several sources, including employees and stakeholder groups such as the Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC). A wide variety of suggestions were submitted on ways to enhance staffing and services, improve efficiency, and better harness technology resources. We also met five times with our Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), which was composed of stakeholders, community members, and BDS staff. The BAC met from mid-November through the end of January. Our Requested Budget was endorsed by both the DRAC and the BAC.
The Requested Budget reflects our commitment to provide excellent programs and services while operating in a fiscally responsible manner.
Due to improved permit revenues and efficiencies we’ve achieved in the last few years, we are proposing no increases for most fees in FY 2014-15. The lone exception is our Environmental Soils Program, which continues to deal with historic program deficits and underfunding. This follows on our last fiscal year (FY 2013-14), when we did not raise fees in several major permit categories, and decreased Site Development fees by 5%. We will continue to strive to use our resources efficiently and keep costs as low as possible.
However, as our Requested Budget was being submitted, stakeholders and Commissioner Fritz’s Office encouraged us to explore options for adding the 18 positions this spring, rather than waiting for the FY 2014-15 budget to take effect on July 1st. After consideration, we decided to take an ordinance to the City Council asking for authorization to add the positions this spring to our current FY 2013-14 Adopted Budget. City Council approved the ordinance on Wednesday, March 5th, and we will now work with the Bureau of Human Resources to begin filling the positions.
Some of the positions added are Plans Examiners, City Planners, Development Services Technicians and Building Inspectors to address work in various programs throughout the bureau.
An additional benefit to filling the positions this budget year will be reopening the Development Services Center(PermitCenter) on Mondays and all day on Friday, later this Spring.
“This Ordinance allows the BDS to recruit and train staff in time to meet our summer workload requirements,” said BDS Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Historically, positions like these would have waited until the start of the next Fiscal Year (July1) to be added to the Bureau’s budget, which doesn’t meet BDS’ hiring and customer service needs”. BDS Director Paul L. Scarlett stated, “Our customers and the community have been asking for us to reopen the permit center for the full week since we were forced to close it on Mondays in 2010 due to shrinking revenues. Council’s approval of these positions will allow us to bring back this valuable service and provide improved staffing to meet increasing workload levels”.
Eight of the positions are targeted for expansion of the Development Services Center’s hours of operations – reopening Mondays and allowing customers to apply for, and have building permits reviewed, on Friday afternoons. The Development Services Center provides a one-stop location for development-related information and services for customers and the community. The expansion of hours of operations is anticipated to occur in mid to late Spring 2014. The remainder of the positions will maintain or improve current building permit and land use review turn-around timelines and services, to accommodate steady construction industry growth in Portland.