In an effort to be more business-friendly, the City of Turlock discounted all building plan check and inspection fees by 25 percent last year.
Now six months into the discount, the Turlock City Council has learned the move could cost Turlockers nearly three times the amount forecast by city staff.
Initial projections suggested the discount would cost the City of Turlock $135,000. But through the first six months of the discount, the true cost of the discount has already been $153,000. By fiscal year's end, counting several large buildings expected as part of the Monte Vista Crossings expansion, that could rise to $360,000.
The difference can be attributed to an unexpected surge in building activity. Some of the surge came as builders rushed to get in building applications before the end of 2013 – when new building codes went into effect – but city staff believe the majority of the difference comes due to a resurgent building market.
The discount is relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things. The under-construction Sutter Gould Turlock Patient Care Center received a $4,700 discount on more than $644,000 in total fees. A single family home saved about $1,900 on $71,000 in fees.
“It's not a large number,” said City Engineer Mike Pitcock. “… Is this helping us generate business? It's hard to say.”
The discount will likely remain for its initially approved one-year term, but may not make a return. Turlock City Councilmember Forrest White noted the council would need to take a “hard look” at the expenditure in the 2014-2015 budget.
“That's three public safety positions,” White said. “… If we're going to spend public money and go in the hole, where is our best bang for the dollar?”