Commissioners consider waiving permit fees for businesses

August 31, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll would lose almost $166,000 a year in revenue if the commissioners waive building permit and other fees for new and existing businesses.

But Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the county would make up the money in taxes the businesses would pay.

"Hopefully, it will kind of wash," he said yesterday.

The commissioners are considering waiving the fees or capping them as a way of attracting businesses and encouraging existing businesses to expand, thus creating jobs in the county.

"It's a little bit of a carrot to most businesses," Mr. Dell said.

The commissioners discussed the idea with staff members yesterday.

"I think they have to be very aware of what they're giving away in terms of dollars," Budget Director Steven D. Powell said.

If waivers were implemented in the current fiscal year, the county would have to find $166,000 to make up for the lost fees, he said.

Mr. Dell said the change should start at the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1, 1994. The '94 budget could be adjusted to reflect the change.

The waiver, if approved, would not be retroactive, Mr. Dell said.

"You have to draw the line somewhere and let the chips fall," he said.

Mr. Powell said he has heard of other counties waiving permit fees to try to persuade a specific business to locate there, but said he knows of no county that waives all permit fees for businesses.

General Services Director J. Michael Evans said the money collected for permit fees from businesses is a small part of all permit fees collected. Carroll collects about $1 million a year in permit fees, $800,000 of that from residential permits, he said.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Carroll collected $165,726 from the following permit fees:

* $33,142 from buildings classified as industrial, which includes factories and warehouses. Of the 51 permits issued, 40 were for $500 or less. Two were for more than $5,000.

* $125,264 from buildings classified as commercial, which include offices, institutions and educational buildings. Of the 190 permits issued, 154 were for $500 or less. Three were for more than $5,000.

* $1,350 from farm buildings.

* $5,970 from grading projects.

Permit fees cover the costs of paying inspectors, Mr. Evans said. The fees are based on the size and value of the buildings.

Businesses constructing or expanding a building pay fees for building permits and for electrical, plumbing and grading permits, he said.

Mr. Evans said the county could adjust the formula for calculating the fees to make the system more equitable for businesses constructing large buildings. Permit fees for large buildings usually cost more than the inspection services the owner receives, he said.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy agreed that waiving or capping the fees would be a way to attract and keep businesses. Businesses don't use as many services as residents do, he said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she likes the idea, but wants to study it further before making a decision. She said she would like to ask Carroll County Chamber of Commerce members for advice.

"It would probably send a positive message to the business community that we wanted to do something to help them," she said.

"It would be a change in our philosophy. I'd like to hear from the businesses themselves," Mrs. Gouge said.

Mr. Dell said the commissioners will talk with Mr. Powell again before making a decision.

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