Bureau of Development Services Budget Update

Bureau of Development Services (BDS) Budget and Finance staff submitted the fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 BDS Requested Budget and 5-Year Financial Plan to the City Budget Office on February 4, 2019.
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BDS Budget and Finance staff submitted the fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 BDS Requested Budget and 5-Year Financial Plan to the City Budget Office on February 4, 2019. Both documents (plus the BDS Equity Assessment Report) are available for viewing on the City Budget Office website.  Budget documents for all City bureaus can be viewed here.

The Requested Budget and Financial Plan for BDS highlights our strategic goals and provides information on our financial, staffing, and service level needs.

The City Budget Office is currently reviewing budget submissions from all City bureaus and made budget recommendations to the City Council on March 5, 2019.

Impacts of Construction Slowdown

Our budget reflects the current slowing in construction in Portland that is having a significant impact on BDS revenues.

Land use applications have been decreasing since the beginning of 2018, and permit applications have begun to slow down in the last several months. We’ve responded by reducing many non-mandatory expenditures, leaving vacant staff positions unfilled, and putting a freeze on most bureau hiring through the end of 2019, but it is clear that further steps are needed to protect the bureau’s financial health. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that revenues are falling faster than the workload. This makes it more challenging to support the level of staffing that’s needed to process incoming work.

We’re taking a series of steps to address these issues:

  • Due to the decrease in land use revenues, the FY 2019-20 budget request includes a reduction of 11.0 FTE from the Land Use Services Program through the elimination of vacant positions. The program laid off 3 staff in December 2018 and is reducing staff by another 15 positions through layoffs and reassignments in the current calendar year. Land Use Services has been rapidly going through its financial reserves, and State regulations prohibit us from moving funds to Land Use from our building code programs.
  • We are reviewing all of our fee schedules and will likely be making adjustments to some fees. Most bureau fees have not been raised in the last 5 years, despite increasing costs to BDS to provide services. Due to the dire need in Land Use Services, an ordinance was passed at City Council on February 27 to increase land use fees effective April 1, 2019. Changes to other fees would go to City Council later this spring, with an effective date of July 1, 2019.
  • Our budget includes a request for $1.2 million in one-time General Fund support for Land Use Services (see below for details).

Budget Highlights

Our budget includes two Budget Directives from Mayor Wheeler that help address the Land Use Services Division funding issues and the need for better coordination and collaboration between the City bureaus involved in development review.

Land Use Services General Fund ($1.2 million)

The BDS Land Use Services (LUS) Division provides services that benefit the entire community through enforcement of the City’s zoning regulations. State law prohibits us from using permit revenues to support local code enforcement programs like LUS. In the past the program was funded by a combination of its own fee revenues and the City’s General Fund. However, in recent years General Fund support has been removed, and LUS is now funded entirely from LUS fee revenue, which has been decreasing steadily since FY 2017-18. There have been fewer applications for large commercial projects, which typically fund much of the program. Fee revenue has dropped more drastically than workload levels, including the portion of the workload that does not generate any direct fees for service, such as:

  • Reviewing code amendment projects for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability;
  • Working on process improvements with the Portland Online Permitting System (POPS) and BDS Sign Program;
  • Improving the land use review customer experience by providing outreach and training to land use customers on preparing land use applications; and
  • Providing public information regarding the land use and permitting processes, through printed materials, the BDS website, videos, and answering questions in the permit center.

If approved, this budget directive will provide much-needed funds and will allow LUS to continue to provide these important services.

City Development Review Strategic Plan ($60,000)

This directive requests one-time General Fund support for a strategic planning process for the City’s development review function.  Development review in Portland is complex, involving up to seven different City bureaus applying City, State, and federal regulations.  Coordination of the development review process is made more challenging by the lack of a shared set of values and goals and a governance structure for setting development review priorities and making decisions. 

If approved, this directive will involve all the development review bureaus in a process to identify shared goals and create a structure and process for prioritizing and making decisions.  This will lead to better coordination between the bureaus and faster resolution of conflicts and differences, improving the City’s development review function.

These directives received nearly unanimous support from the Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) and the BDS Budget Advisory Committee.

For more information about the BDS FY 2019-20 budget development, please contact BDS Finance Manager Kyle O’Brien at 503-823-7323.

Upcoming 2019 Budget Events

Upcoming important dates in the budget process include:

  • March 5 – City Budget Office makes budget recommendations to City Council
  • March 5 to April 2 – City Council Budget Work Sessions
  • April 2, 4, and 9 – Community Budget Forums
  • May 1 – Mayor’s Proposed Budget released
  • May 9 – Budget Committee Public Hearing on City & Prosper Portland Budget Meeting
  • June 12 – City Council vote on Adopted Budget
  • July 1 – FY 2019-20 Budget goes into effect