Washington County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford said Wednesday he was never told what the amount of his department’s building permit revenue line item was going to be this fiscal year.
“They never talked with me,” he said specifically.
However, the Budget Committee meeting minutes from July 26 clearly show he acknowledged and confirmed $120,000, which was then entered in the county’s 2012-13 estimated budget.
Rutherford, who said he is seriously considering a run for the county mayor’s seat in 2014, also announced that he plans to ask the County Commission to hire a full-time planning director. He also presented and explained to the Johnson City Press three proposed, self-generated resolutions that will be introduced to commissioners at the May 28 meeting.
Following an explanation of his plans, he was shown a copy of the budget and the building permit revenue estimate.
“Why in the hell would you budget that much?” he said. “Last year when they set the projected numbers, they never talked with me.”
At last year’s Budget Committee meeting — a meeting akin to annual local government meetings in which department heads pronounce their financial projections — Rutherford told committee members he expected revenue from the new code enforcement officer and the combined zoning compliance permits to be between $110,000 to $120,000.
This exchange followed:
County Mayor Dan Eldridge: “Hold on, $110,000 to $120,000, and that’s from zoning and building?”
Rutherford: “That’s just the building permit.”
Committee members Ethan Flynn and Mitch Meredith stopped Rutherford several times during his presentation to ask for clarifications. After conversation about how revenues would change in light of Rutherford bringing on a new building codes inspector, the dialogue concluded.
Eldridge: “Alright, well we’ve got to plug a revenue number in, so ... $120,000?”
Rutherford: “$120,000 ... and that’s conservative.”
On Friday, Rutherford had this to say: “Now that you jog my memory, I do remember making that. But as far as having a formal conversation, we did not have that. We thrashed through a lot of numbers. If that’s where they picked that up, yeah, that’s where it came from. No insult to them from me.”
An inquiry Friday with the mayor’s office about the nature of the meeting yielded this comment from Eldridge:
“That was in the Budget Hearing (a public meeting regarding an organization’s budget) for his particular department,” he said. “That is a formal meeting.”
Meanwhile, Rutherford’s first proposed resolution is a revised zoning-related fee schedule that eliminates fees, such as minor and major subdivisions of property, grading permit fees and stormwater permits. His second resolution cuts in half what the county charges for building permits. The fees rise according to a sliding scale with the cost of construction determining the fee. The third resolution would set the number of Board of Zoning Appeals members at five. However, two additional “associate members” would be named.
As of April 30, the zoning administrator’s office has collected more than $80,000 in building permit fees with the fiscal year set to end June 30. The prior year’s budget was $76,094, so this mark already has been surpassed. Also, the number of permits issued so far this year is 273, compared to 212 in fiscal year 2012, a nearly 29 percent increase.