Entries for 'budget'

FY17 staff work program includes reorganizing operations, budget

Posted on September 01, 2016
PDS operations will be prepared to transition to a new model in the interest of greater accountability by the end of the current fiscal year (June 30, 2017). Whether that transition is authorized depends on staff work to be accomplished between now and the end of the fiscal year’s third quarter.

The organization is structured currently on a departmental basis. If authorized by the PDS Management Board and Council, it would move to a structure focused on programs administered today by the staff.

PDS has operated for several decades within a structure of four main departments—planning and zoning, infrastructure engineering, GIS, and building codes with services provided by an administrative staff. Being structured in this manner meant funding from a budget built around these categories and direction from a work program based on them.

And, while this structure has worked, it has made answering questions difficult about the various programs that are administered by staff. PDS executive director Dennis Gordon asserts that programs are more the focus of inquiries—be they funding or direction oriented—than are departments.

“People couldn’t care less about how our staff is divided,” he says. “They’re familiar with the programs we administer and, as such, frame their questions to us in those terms. We answer their questions eventually after pulling numbers from this department and that department and totaling them… a process that is time consuming and less than transparent.”

Gordon suggests the departmental focus also makes it difficult to compare revenues and expenditures for individual programs.

Take for example PDS’ One Stop Shop codes administration program that enforces building codes, property maintenance codes, and zoning codes for 16 of Kenton County’s 20 local governments. Answering questions about the revenue and expenditures of the program takes time and a calculator because those functions are located within two of PDS’ departments—planning and zoning and building codes.

Another example covers services provided to the Kenton County Planning Commission. Members of that 20-member board deal with staff from two departments as they pursue their responsibilities. Those are planning and zoning and infrastructure engineering. More examples exist.

Under a structure approved preliminarily by the PDS Council and Management Board, the four departments give way to four programming areas that cut across the PDS staff. They are Kenton County Planning Commission, the One Stop Shop program, GIS, and General Governmental Services.

“Our elected and appointed officials have approved this transition in concept; now it’s up to staff to provide the tools to make it work,” said Gordon. “Our first task is to slice and dice the current departmental budget—both revenues and expenditures—into one that’s structured along program lines. We’ll report our financial activities throughout FY17 in both formats so they can make the necessary comparisons.”

Gordon says the ongoing assessment of the programming focus will run through the third quarter of FY17—roughly next February. That’s when work on the FY18 budget begins. If PDS officials are happy with the transparency that results from the new structure, staff will build next year’s budget and work objectives around the four program areas. If they’re not, staff will begin looking for another way to provide the accountability and transparency everybody wants.

Gordon believes officials will like the result. “We’re optimistic this will work or we wouldn’t have exhibited the enthusiasm we’ve shown. It’s going to be a lot of work to be sure, particularly for our accountant who’s responsible for time reports and financial books. But, she was the one who called our attention to the ‘programming-focused’ approach after attending a national public finance officers’ conference a year ago.”

“She’s going into this with her eyes wide open,” Gordon concluded. “We’re confident this is a good move.”

New budget funds electronic plan review for all PDS projects

Posted on July 29, 2016
Submitting a plat, a site plan, or building plans to PDS for review and approval? You won’t need to hit the PRINT button on your CAD system to create the hard copies for submission. The agency’s FY17 budget includes funds for transitioning its staff to electronic plan reviews and away from paper. Full implementation of the new process is expected by next June.

“We took our first step in this direction two years ago when we purchased development-tracking software,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Virtually everything we do now as an agency—planning, engineering, building review, and code enforcement—is stored in TRAKiT. And, because our GIS provides the supporting foundation for the entire tracking system, all records are tied to the parcels on which the activity takes place.”

The TRAKiT system employed by PDS has made accessing records and tying those records to individual parcels significantly less time-consuming, according to Gordon. The one exception to this new process is the time it takes staff to scan paper images into the electronic system, and of course the time it takes then to handle the resulting paper.

“Handling plans in electronic format is going to improve the workflow in several ways,” Gordon suggested. “Staff will be able to receive plans, applications, and payments via email using PayPal. Those same time savers will apply to customers who won’t need to drive to our office any longer. They won’t have to buy paper and print plans—some that look more like small logs than anything else—and we won’t have to scan and eventually dispose of them.”

One of the great benefits of TRAKiT’s all-electronic format is that inspectors can access all relevant records and plans in the field using their iPads and the internet. Being able to review original plans rather than scanned versions of those plans will only improve this ability.

Gordon said that builders in particular have wanted to be able to submit plans electronically for some time. The technology to do that has existed for quite a while. But, he suggests, electronic plan review needed to be part of an overall strategy for improving workflow for PDS customers and staff—and that took time.

“We’re happy to be able finally to meet our customers’ requests,” Gordon said. “PDS is a service organization. Even though our customers don’t have the ability to go to a competitor for the services we provide, we try to operate in a manner as though they do.”

Transitioning to electronic plan review will begin sometime in the fall, once software and hardware are purchased. As staff are trained on the software, they will eventually move away from paper plans toward CAD drawings on their computer screens.

“We intend to pursue this transition in a slow and easy manner,” concluded Gordon. “We’ll all have things to learn, customers and staff alike. We want this to go as smoothly as possible.”

PDS will continue to accept plans on paper for the foreseeable future.

PDS Council approves FY17 budget; okays “compensating” tax rate

Posted on July 29, 2016
PDS’ budget for Fiscal Year 2017 looks a lot like a number of its predecessors, holding the line on tax revenue. It’s also larger than a number of those that preceded it due to a growing workload and the revenue stream it produces. Those trends were highlighted for PDS Council members last month during the discussion that led to them approving it.

One elected representative from each of Kenton County’s 20 local governments makes up the PDS Council. These officials serve in a role defined by statute to “provide more effective representation of the various governmental units” participating in the organization’s operations. Among the group’s responsibilities is the review and approval of an annual budget and the tax rate that funds a majority of it.

According to Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director, the organization’s new fiscal year budget “continues a trend the PDS Management Board set during the early years of the Great Recession.”

“Because a good deal of the services PDS provides is driven by the economy, our budget reflects to some extent the ups and downs of the regional economy,” asserted Gordon. “Our Fiscal Year 2007 budget for example was our largest as the recession took hold. All budgets since then have been smaller than 2007’s.”

The new fiscal year’s budget extends beyond the 2007 ceiling for the first time with fee revenue making the difference.

FY17’s budget is funded primarily through a “compensating tax rate” according to Gordon. A compensating rate is the rate that produces the same revenue as was produced by the previous year’s tax rate; the difference being the assessed valuation of the taxing unit. The bottom line of a compensating rate budget is theoretically the same as the previous year’s assuming no other source(s) of revenue.

Among the many trends Gordon illustrated for elected officials is the agency’s growing reliance on fee revenue, part of the PDS Management Board’s directive to staff almost ten years ago. Fee revenue is projected to bring in roughly $200,000 more during FY17 than it was projected to produce during FY16—with no increase in individual fees charged.

“This new fiscal year budget is only a little larger than the Fiscal Year 2007 budget,” said Gordon. “This represents a meager 5.2 percent budget increase over the past ten years—or put another way—an average annual increase of just one-half percent.”

Council approves FY15 budget and work program; changes its name

Posted on August 15, 2014
The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council fulfilled one of its primary statutory responsibilities in late June when it considered and then approved the organization’s budget and proposed tax rate for Fiscal Year 2015. The group of elected officials representing each of Kenton County’s 20 local jurisdictions concluded the evening by changing its name and approving a number of steps recommended earlier by the PDS Management Board (formerly the area planning commission).

Among the many facts about the proposed budget illustrated for elected officials was the FY15 bottom line. “This new fiscal year budget approximates the bottom line of our Fiscal Year 2006 budget,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS executive director. “It also represents an approximation with the bottom line of our FY14 budget—the one that just ended in June.”

Because of growth since last year in the county’s real property values, Gordon asserts this bottom line will lead to a less-than-compensating rate for PDS on this fall’s Kenton County tax bills. Compensating rates produce the same amount of revenue as the preceding year’s rate.

In other action taken by the Council, members followed suit on action taken in May by the area planning commission which changed its name and those of its operations to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County. The Council approved a resolution which among other things changes its name to the PDS (Planning and Development Services) Council. Both name changes were part of a comprehensive effort aimed at clarity.

A communications assessment conducted in 2011 found that the number one problem people had with NKAPC was confusion about the services it provided and how they differed from those provided by the Kenton County Planning Commission. The other reason for the change was to reflect the true mission of the agency as a service provider on behalf of the county’s 20 local governments—a city-county planning department, if you will—and the county-wide planning commission created by those jurisdictions nearly 50 years ago.

PDS is overseen by a group of seven individuals who meet regularly to assure that direction provided by the community’s elected officials is being followed. The organization’s budget and the tax rate that funds a majority of it are reviewed and approved annually by these elected officials as required by law.

PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission. It also supports a majority of the county’s 20 local jurisdictions as their planning, engineering, and building staff. And, it serves as managing partner and provides the central hub and staffing for the multi-county LINK-GIS partnerships.