Fees for building, fire, engineering updated
By Lisa Brody
After not reviewing or updating the fee schedules for permits and services for several Bloomfield Township departments since 2006, at their meeting on Monday, June 28, the board of trustees unanimously approved updated fee schedules to more accurately reflect current costs and services rendered.
Patti Voelker, director of planning, building and ordinance, informed trustees that she, Olivia Olsztyn-Budry, director of engineering and environmental services, clerk Martin Brook and fire chief John LeRoy were presenting a joint presentation of the updated township fee schedules “to better represent fees, with the intention to better reflect the services rendered rather than be a burden on the general fund. Many of the current fees were adopted by the township board as far back as 2006. Also, we now understand what it costs to implement those permits. These new fees better represent those user fees and the costs to us to implement them.”
The departments undertook the review after being directed to update their user fee schedules to more accurately reflect the actual costs associated with providing fee-related services in their respective departments. User fees recover costs associated with the provision of specific services benefiting the user, thereby reducing the use of general fund monies for such purposes. The department heads said that examples of user fees include permit application fees and inspection fees associated with the various township permits required per ordinances and other local, county and state regulations. Other ordinances, such as the tree protection and preservation ordinance, wireless communication facilities ordinance, and others, had user fees determined when the ordinance was created and since their enactment, the township has a clearer understanding and experience on what the actual effort and time is to administer the ordinance and associated permits.
The focus of the study was to recalibrate the user fee amount to match the cost of services provided and to better conform with current practices. Throughout the study process, engagement across various departments was useful to clarify the method of calculating user fees based on a comprehensive approach to services. Beyond this, some additions to the fee schedule were simply identifying existing services or activities performed by staff in which no fee was currently charged, the department heads reported, notably by the fire department.
“The fire department had never had a fee schedule for any of the work it had done,” LeRoy said. “We were looking to develop a compliance mandate for inspections. Fifty percent of the time we are revisiting sites because they aren't complying, and that delays us getting to other businesses. We decided to enact a fee – we'll still give the first and second inspections free, and then charge. In the past, the fire department has been very involved without compensation.”
Olsztyn-Budry said that there is often an overlap by departments in the permit process. Updated fees were developed by examining the costs for service based on the time to complete, the average time to work on and the average time to complete, including multiple inspections.
“There are several steps to the process,” she said.
“We found that though it's not the basis for our fee schedule, we did a cursory review of neighboring communities. Unfortunately, it's not apples to apples,” Voelker said. “There are a lot of services we provide that are not fee based. We are a resource of information well before any application is made.”