Fenwick down on building-permit funds

Outside of property and rental receipt taxes, Fenwick Island town officials expected money brought in from building permits to be their largest source of revenue this year.
But after bringing in more than $216,000 in the 2005 fiscal year, and more than $70,000 in December 2004 alone, the town doesn’t expect to even come close to that number when their 2006 year of operations ends on July 31.

As of the end of January, the town has made less than $60,000 on building permits, since July 31 of 2005.

“It is possible that there will be a $100,000 shortfall,” said Mayor Peter Frederick.

Pat Schuchman, the town’s building official, said that the town usually averages more than 20 permits for new construction each year but has only granted two as of last week. Schuchman has granted 56 building permits altogether, including renovations, but the new-construction permits are the money-makers because the town receives 3.5 percent of the estimated cost of the project.

The other 54 permits have been for less expensive, smaller projects such as new roofs, windows and decks, she said.

“I’m not getting the phone calls,” Schuchman said. “I don’t think we’re going to make as much as projected.”

Schuchman attributed a loss of applications to a lagging economy and a trend that is developing nationally. People just aren’t building, she said.

But although John Eckrich, Bethany’s building inspector, usually considers Bethany isolated from national trends, Fenwick’s northern neighbor hasn’t had any problems receiving new construction applications this fiscal year.

He said that he has granted 28 new construction applications and the town has brought in $303,000 of the $370,000 budgeted for the 2006 fiscal year, which ends in April.

“We should be relatively close (to $370,000),” Eckrich said.

Still, Frederick said he isn’t concerned about Fenwick’s position.

The town has already received about $25,000 more in property taxes than expected and there will likely be a surplus in rental receipt taxes.

And, when budgeting, town officials never know what they will bring in through permits anyway so they usually take and educated guess and “plug in a number,” Frederick said. “Whenever we do the budgets for permits, it’s like shooting dice,” he added. “It’s an estimate.”