Local developers and builders will no longer face automatic annual increases in Pima County building-permit fees after the Board of Supervisors approved a change that bases future fee adjustments on county cash reserves.
Repealing a policy of automatic fee increases in place since 1997, the supervisors on Tuesday unanimously adopted a new policy that bases fee adjustments on an annual review of cash reserves in a fund that supports the operation of the county’s Development Services Department.
If cash reserves in the Development Services Enterprise Fund are greater than 5% of the next year’s tentative budget total, the fees will be reduced by 5%.
Conversely, if the annual review shows cash reserves less than 95% percent of the budget, fees will be increased by 2%. In years when cash balances are within 5% of the next year’s tentative budget, no adjustment will occur.
“DSD needed a smarter way to set fees based on annual budget needs,” department director Carla Blackwell said.
The new policy on annual fee adjustments has the support of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association and the Metropolitan Pima Alliance, Development Services Deputy Director Chris Poirier told the supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting.
The shift to need-based fee annual adjustments is part of a multiyear effort by Pima County to work in cooperation with the business community to improve operations of the county’s Development Services Department, Blackwell said.
Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading, Pima County suspended a planned increase in development fees.
Over the past several years, Development Services has improved and streamlined many of its processes to provide faster, more efficient service, reduced fee items and allowed a bundling of fees rather than separate charges, the county said.
Measures like remote inspections and a largely digitized application and permitting process has also reduced the need for customers to make in-person visits to the Development Services offices at 201 N. Stone Ave.
As a result, reviews for most building and site construction permits are completed in less than five working days, the county said.
Blackwell said department staffers are cross-trained to avoid time consuming “handoffs” of permit reviews and to allow for the bundling of processes, such as the review and approval processes for water and wastewater systems for all jurisdictions within the county.
For example, Blackwell said, applicants who previously were required to receive approvals for sewer, onsite water treatment facilities and public water systems from the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department and the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality can now save time and effort by getting multiple approvals through Development Services alone.