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City to focus on more transparent fee structure for building permit applicants
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The City of Turlock is considering steps it could take to make it more transparent to applicants why they are paying a litany of fees when they apply for a building permit following a workshop on Tuesday.

The workshop, focused on reviewing current building procedures, is one of the last in a series instated by Mayor Gary Soiseth as part of his 100-day commitment to reviewing all city departments.

“What people may not realize is that as the Building Department we’re only keeping about 5 to 20 percent,” explained Chief Building Official Eric Picciano.

While applicants receive a list of fees, the City is collecting many of them on behalf of other organizations, like the school district, county, or state, whom the Finance department is then charged with reimbursing. The Building Department only captures a small percentage of the fees listed.

 “Part of our function is, as that messenger and as the agent that is hosting all of these fees for the other agencies or state or county, it is important to see it’s not just the building fees that they are paying at that moment in time,” said Picciano.

Council Member Bill DeHart spearheaded the conversation on Tuesday noting that creating a clear conversation between applicants and the City is important when establishing Turlock’s reputation as a place for development.   

“I think the rap that we’ve unfairly taken is that we are so much more expensive than other municipalities in close proximity and it’s just not true, number one. But number two, I think we could help ourselves out if there was a way that we could graphically explain, or show to people, that this is all that is coming to Turlock, folks,” said DeHart, who proposed a graphic be designed to distinguish which fees the City retains and doesn’t keep.

In November the City of Turlock began using new software, New World System, which Picciano said delineates the fees better than the former permit system. While Director of Development Services Mike Pitcock said “there are some limitations with the software,” he noted that the City will work to find ways to make it more apparent to applicants why they are being charged each amount because it is important from a customer service perspective.

“We want to be the one stop shop. We don’t want to send you down the road to the different agencies paying the different fees. It’s better for the customer to do it this way, but I think we have to tell the story,” said Pitcock.

Picciano added that he thinks “… it is possible that we did have that disconnect when we changed over from the systems, but like Mike has said I think it is possible in that system we have now to make that subdivision and somehow make it a little clearer as to what is staying within the Building Department and what is staying within the City and what is actually leaving the City or even our county because there are state taxes in there also.”

The next City of Turlock workshop slated for April 7 titled Strengthening the Relationship between the City of Turlock and California State University, Stanislaus has been cancelled. Instead, a forum will be held in the fall at CSUS where the mayor, council members, president of the university, and students will convene to discuss the partnership.