The city-parish Public Works Department has decided to pull an item from this evening’s Metro Council meeting agenda that would have raised building permit fees to address a $1.2 million deficit in the Permit and Inspections Department.
The proposal, which would have increased both the commercial plan review fee and permit fees for commercial and residential buildings, was set for a vote and public hearing tonight. But after holding meetings with the development community and other stakeholders, Kelvin Hill, public works assistant chief administrative officer, decided to nix plans for any fee increases.
The reason for the permit department’s $1.2 million shortfall is the low fees it charges, Hill says, adding that East Baton Rouge Parish charges less than other parishes. Instead of raising permit fees, though, the department will now look to the general fund, which helps finance the agency, to address its deficit.
Baton Rouge Growth Coalition Executive Director Larry Bankston says developers are willing to work with the city-parish on the permit rates, but the pulled proposed would have been a “substantial increase.”
“There is a deficit if you look at the amount fees generate,” Bankston says. “The fees paid do not cover operational costs of that department. We’ll work with them to reach an agreement.”
But Hill says he has no plans as of now to try again for a fee increase.
The nixed agenda item would have changed the commercial plan review fee from $0.04 per square foot to 0.025% of the valuation of the construction. It would have also raised building permit fees as follows:
- For construction valuations at or below $100,000, the fee would be $5 per thousand spent. The current fee is $3 per every thousand.
- For valuations between $100,000 to $500,000, the fee would be $300 plus $5 per thousand. The current fee is $300 plus $2 per thousand above $100,000.
- For valuations greater than $500,000, the fee would be $1,100 dollars plus $1.50 per thousand. The current fee charges $1.50 per thousand above $500,000.
While the growth coalition is willing to negotiate fees, the development group would in turn like to see the city-parish’s expedited permitting service improved, Bankston adds. Baton Rouge’s permitting process is notoriously slow and city-parish leaders have begun outsourcing more work in an effort to speed up the process.