Tyler's planning department is proposing a building fee increase to make way for two new positions and pay increases for building inspectors.

The planning department began a "development process review study" in 2014, and Planning Director Heather Nick gave an update to the Tyler City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

Ms. Nick said the goal of the study is to increase customer satisfaction and process efficiency, and included a complete review of various permitting processes to find inefficiencies as well as stakeholder meetings, among other things.

The study found a major bottleneck in service within its building inspections, which have increased 44 percent since 2009, Ms. Nick said. Last year, 23,635 residential and commercial building inspections were completed.

Tyler's building inspectors completed an average of 38 inspections a day, and would need an additional 2.46 hours a day to accomplish their daily workload, Ms. Nick said.

The problem is twofold, she said. The city has a retention problem, likely caused by low pay, and could use additional employees to spread out the workload.

"We have to meet the demand," Ms. Nick said. "Our city is growing, and that's wonderful, but we want to make sure we are meeting the customer demands and expectations. In order to do that we need to address our recruiting as well as our staffing levels."

Tyler building inspectors are paid the lowest in a list of comparable cities at $14.38 an hour. San Angelo is the closest to Tyler's rate at $14.72, followed by College Station, $16.13; Denton, $16.15; Odessa, $18.33; and Longview, $18.57. Round Rock pays the best at $26 an hour.

Ms. Nick is proposing raising the city's pay rate to Longview's rate of $18.57 an hour, an increase of $3.99 an hour.

The city has four budgeted building inspector positions, but had 2.5 employees working last fiscal year. If the department were fully staffed, the number of inspections per day would drop from 38 to 24, according to the study. If an additional inspector were added, they would each complete an average of 19 inspections a day.

The city is proposing adding a permit technician and a building inspector.

To pay for the new employee and raises, the planning department is proposing a fee increase, but the rate change has not been approved by City Council.

Permits are calculated by the project valuation. Fees are assessed in tiers, and each of those tiers have a base fee, plus a fee for every $1,000 in valuation after the low end in the tier, Senior Planner Kyle Kingma said.

The proposal is to increase the base fees by 10 percent, and the multiplier rate by 50 percent, He said.

He said it is not the same thing as saying the cost of the permit will increase by 50 percent. The fee for a $250,000 home is the current structure is $273.60. With the proposed increases, the fee would be $348.96, a 27.5 percent increase.

The base rate for homes costing between $1,000 and $50,000 will go from $30 to $33 and the multiplier rate will increase from $1.40 to $2.10.

A home with a value of $50,001 to $100,000 will see a base increase from $98.60 to $108.46, and it multiplier rate to increase from $1.10 to $1.55.

The base rate of a home with a price tag of $100,001 to $500,000 will go from $153.60 to $168.96 and its multiplier rate would increase from 80 cents to $1.20.

The base rate for a home valued over $500,000 would increase from $473.60 to $520.96 and the multiplier would increase from 50 cents to 75 cents.

Parts of the development review findings have already been implemented including creating a help desk inside the Tyler Development Center to guide customers as well as the addition of a customer relations and development review supervisors. Building signage was improved and the public records request protocols were updated. Certain permits can also be filed online.

Ms. Nick said the City Council would likely decide on the fee increases in December.

 

Twitter: @ TMTFaith

 
 

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Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.