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Permit fee increases take effect July 1

Building permit and land use application fees will be increasing, effective July 1, 2023.

Fees for building permits and land use applications will be increasing 50% starting July 1, 2023. The increase was approved by the Washington County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on Feb. 21.

Both Building Services and Development Review/Current Planning have been struggling with budget shortfalls in recent years. Unlike some other area jurisdictions, these workgroups are supported entirely by the fees paid for applications and related services. In short, these revenues are not keeping up with rising costs.

Cost reduction/recovery measures included:

  • Incremental fee increases in both FY 2020-21 and FY 2022-23. These increases did not sufficiently address the budget shortfalls

  • Spending down fund balances

  • Voluntary Separation Program and Voluntary Work Schedule Reductions

  • Positions vacated through attrition left unfilled


An independent consultant assessed both work groups’ budgets, staffing and workflows. Several service-level scenarios prepared by the consultant were reviewed. To achieve customer service/turn-around times desired by both customers and staff, additional staffing is required. Existing low staffing levels are not sustainable for either employees or our customers, who are sometimes having to deal with unacceptable turnaround times. 

Key recommendations from this assessment included: 

  • A 50% fee increase to:

    • Provide the minimum staffing needed to meet desired service levels. 

    • Close the gap between costs and revenue 

  • Annual fee adjustments to address ongoing program cost increases beginning July 1, 2024.

  • A technology fee on permits/applications to fund technology systems operations and updates beginning July 1, 2024.

At this time, the only other possible County funding source for these work groups is the Washington County General Fund. Unfortunately, limited revenues for the County General Fund are not meeting expenses. For FY 2023‐24, the shortfall between projected revenues and anticipated expenditures in the General Fund is 7.1% or $25.3 million. All work groups receiving General Fund dollars are being asked to cut expenses. 

In other words, General Fund support for Building Services and Current Planning is not an option. 

The fee increases will provide critical funding to provide adequate staffing to help ensure target service levels are sustained. Workload and staffing levels change frequently. Review and response times will continue to fluctuate with changes in incoming work and staffing levels. 

We are also updating our processes to improve efficiencies and customer service. This includes: 

  • Implementing concurrent review options for residential building permits to improve review timelines. 

  • Streamlining during permit intake and file check (final step prior to permit issuance) processes. 

  • Increasing staff members’ ability to adapt to workload needs. This may include additional cross-training so employees can move from one work area to another based on customer demand. 

  • Example:  Possible software upgrades to allow applicants to directly submit permits online. 

We continue to evaluate other processes, technologies, workflows and staffing models. 

We anticipate a significant increase in building permits as people will want to get applications in prior to the July 1 fee increase. That increase is likely to create a backlog that may extend beyond July 1. As a result, one of our next priorities will be developing staffing and workflow strategies to manage and mitigate this backlog as much as possible. 

Other areas of focus: 

  • Continuous process and workflow improvements 

  • Development of draft technology fee proposal to start in FY 2024-25 

  • Development of draft policies for annual fee indexing to start in FY 2024-25 

  • Develop list of key services and target review/response times 

  • Ongoing stakeholder outreach and communication 

Based on the independent consultant’s assessment of both Building Services and Current Planning, historic financial performance, fees have not kept up with increasing costs. 

Fee-supported enterprises fluctuate with the economy. While some economic trends are predictable from a historic standpoint, other economic influences – like a global pandemic and fluctuations in development activity – are not. Implementing annual fee adjustments to address increasing costs starting in FY 2024-25 will help to address this.