Building permit fees could rise 20 percent or more for contractors and homeowners under a proposal to boost revenue for the city of Medford.
"There's not going to be any fee that we like," said Carlos Reichenshammer, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Jackson County. "We're going to have to pass it on to the customer."
Reichenshammer said he wasn't aware of a proposal to increase fees by the Medford Building Department, which has cut its staff by more than 50 percent — from 18 full-time workers five years ago to seven now.
The City Council reviewed the fee increases Thursday at a study session but didn't take any formal action to approve them. A public hearing could be held in January.
Councilor Chris Corcoran questioned the need for increased fees, saying he needed more information.
"We need to bring this back for debate," he said.
Councilor Bob Strosser said he wanted to make sure local builders were aware of the proposal.
A minimum fee for typical construction inspections could rise from $50 to $60 under the proposal, which will be considered by the City Council at a later date.
On a 2,000-square-foot house, more complicated structural permit fees would rise from $784 to $972, a 24-percent increase. In Oregon, the average fee for this permit is $1,046.
Electrical permit fees could rise by 30 percent.
Chris Reising, director of the Medford Building Department, said revenues have not kept pace with costs, even though he has reduced staff.
He said permits have increased but the type of construction hasn't generated enough additional dollars. As a result, the building department has been dipping into reserves.
The department is running low on reserves to maintain it, he said.
Looking ahead, Reising said he isn't encouraged by construction activity despite a recent uptick.
"I'm getting really nervous looking at the economy," Reising said.
His staff is at the minimum level necessary to run a building department, he said. He has been hiring contract workers to take over some inspection activity.
Reising told the council he would make sure local builders became aware of the fee increase proposal.
The last time fees were increased for building permits was in 2011, when they were raised 5 percent.
Reichenshammer said he would bring the fee proposal up at the next board meeting of the Home Builders Association next week.
He said he was particularly concerned about the 30-percent hike in electrical fees.
Roy Wall, a Medford contractor since 1988, said he would oppose the fee hikes, particularly because the construction industry has taken such a beating during the recession.
"Property values went down, and they just want to jack up the fees," he said.
On the other hand, he understands the economic downturn has been difficult on the building department. He said he also understands that it needs a minimal staff to continue to operate effectively.
"With construction being down, they've got to get their money somewhere," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.