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PDS Council elects new officers, fills seats on management board

Posted on March 07, 2017
The PDS Council—the governing body for Planning and Development Services of Kenton County—met for its annual organizational meeting two weeks ago. Representatives of most Kenton County governments were present. Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman was re-elected the council’s president for 2017; Lakeside Park Mayor Dave Jansing was re-elected vice president, and Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof was re-elected secretary. All terms run through January next year.

In another election, council members elected three individuals to serve two-year terms on the PDS Management Board. Elected were former Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, County Commissioner Beth Sewell, and Fort Wright Councilman Bernie Wessels.

Carran and Sewell serve on the Board currently. Wessels will replace board member and former Taylor Mill Mayor Mark Kreimborg who chose not to run for re-election.

Four other individuals serve on the Management Board, having been elected in 2016 to two-year terms. They are former Fort Wright Mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, Independence City Administrator Chris Moriconi, and Park Hills Mayor Matt Mattone.

As directed by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the PDS Council provides a forum in which Kenton County planning issues can be debated and consensus achieved. With a membership of elected officials only, the Council is also responsible for final review of the organization’s annual budget and the tax rate that funds it.

True to its name, the seven-member Management Board oversees the professional staff, sets policy to achieve the Council’s direction, and provides oversight for the daily operations of the organization.

Others included on the ballot for seats on the Management Board were former Covington Commissioner Chuck Eilerman, former Park Hills Councilman Monty O’Hara, and former Fort Wright Councilman Don Martin.

PDS Council, Management Board back task force recommendations

Posted on January 03, 2017
At its November 17th meeting, PDS Management Board members approved a recommendation regarding infrastructure inspection fees. This action ended a months-long effort by staff to analyze costs and expenses for the program and recommend a funding strategy that would provide 90 percent cost recovery for the inspection service moving forward.

“Earlier this year Kenton County elected officials serving on the PDS Council challenged staff to complete an analysis of the financial condition of the infrastructure inspection program, and to determine whether the fees paid by developers were coving the cost to perform those inspections”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering at PDS.

“When inspection fees don’t cover the cost of performing the inspections, the deficit is covered by taxpayer dollars, which is why it’s important that we perform the analysis. We began by forming a task force of elected officials and representatives of the Home Builders Association.”

The task force met for three months, focusing on fee and expense data that spanned a 16-year period. Members determined that at the end of FY16, there was approximately enough money left in the program fund to cover the cost of the inspections left to be performed.

“That showed that based on the 16 years of data we studied, the program was just about where it needed to be at that time,” said Hiles.

Components of the recommendation that PDS Council endorsed and the Management Board members approved included the following:

1.    Leave current inspection fees unchanged through the end of FY17.
2.    Increase inspection fees annually in an amount equal to the Metro Cincinnati CPI-U beginning with FY18.
3.    Analyze staff’s project-by-project data for FY15, 16, and 17 to determine if fees charged are covering roughly 90 percent of costs associated with providing the services. Assure that the costs of inspections to be provided in the future are included in this analysis.

“The annual adjustment of fees referenced in recommendation #2 will help the program fund stay current with the cost of living,” said Hiles. “We’ve never done this before which resulted in actions that no one liked—not staff and not developers.”

“This not only caused the fund to fall behind our targeted cost recovery, but also forced us to propose higher-than-normal fee increase periodically to catch up to where we needed to be. This incremental adjustment should eliminate this in the future.”

Staff began collecting fee and expense data on a project-by-project basis in FY15, rather than just aggregate totals for the year.

“Beginning in FY18, staff will begin analyzing cost recovery using the project-by-project data”, said Hiles. “It’s another useful tool that will help us assure that fees are covering costs.”

Board authorizes Wall of Distinguished Service to honor contributors

Posted on October 07, 2016
At 55 years of age, PDS is taking steps to acknowledge those whose distinguished service helped the agency succeed. The PDS Management Board last month authorized the creation of a Wall of Distinguished Service and set ten and 20 years as the thresholds for consideration of citizen members and staff respectively.

“We created a Wall of Honor several years ago and posted the names of all individuals who’ve served on the Area Planning Commission/PDS Management Board, the NKAPC/PDS Council, and the Kenton County Planning Commission,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS. “NKAPC had just turned 50 and we thought it was entirely appropriate to honor the organization’s history.”

“What could be more appropriate than to honor the citizens whose decisions built the organization,” he asked.

Gordon says as appropriate as that step was, most agreed that some of the persons whose names appear on the wall should be singled out for their distinguished service to Kenton County and NKAPC/PDS. Many current officials also felt that some of the many professionals who served as staff over the years should be included too.

Upon its creation during October, the Wall of Distinguished Service will include resolutions honoring 18 citizens and five staff members. It will be located physically in PDS’ front corridor where all persons entering its building will be able see it.

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.”

Developers, elected officials meet on cost recovery for inspections

Posted on July 29, 2016
Members of the PDS Council discussed the growing gap between infrastructure inspection costs and fees that are paid to cover them during their March meeting. Staff initiated a review process in May to determine what it would take to cover those costs as well as how and when to accomplish the goal. These fees were last reviewed and increased in 2008.

Subdivision inspection fees are paid by developers as they develop new subdivisions; they cover inspections primarily for earthwork, grading, and storm sewer and street construction.

“In previous years the Kenton County Planning Commission set the subdivision inspection fees that developer paid,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “It would then hand those funds over to staff when they provided the required inspections. It was a cumbersome process.”

The county planning commission decided earlier this year that the task would be administered better by PDS that provides the inspections.

The first thing that staff did was to go back and do a comprehensive review of fees that were paid and compare them to the expenses that were incurred from staff doing the inspections. The fee and expense information collected dated back to 2001.

“We found that the fees were covering only 70 percent of the cost to do the work”, said Hiles. “Our directive from PDS Council was to make sure that fees paid for 100 percent.”

Subdivision inspection work performed by staff that is not covered by fees is paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Staff then formed a subdivision inspection fee committee made up of members of the Home Builders Association and elected officials to discuss their findings. They started meeting monthly beginning in May. Committee members discussed various methods for collecting fees but discussion centered on the 30 percent gap between fees and expenses.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask the taxpayers to subsidize 30 percent of a developer’s for-profit subdivision,” said David Jansing, Mayor of Lakeside Park and one of the committee members. “We need a fee increase so that fees cover the cost to do the inspections”.

Staff hopes to conclude its work by the end of summer at which time it will forward the proposed new fee schedule to the PDS Management Board for review and approval. Hiles believes the resulting increase will probably be effective on January 1st.

The consensus of the committee agreed with Mayor Jansing and has instructed staff to propose a fee increase at the next committee meeting that would close the gap between fees and expenses. Staff is currently preparing that proposal and the next committee meeting is scheduled for July 28th at 5:30 p.m. at PDS.

Board, Council say “Thanks” to Bill Goetz for decades of service

Posted on July 29, 2016
Lyndon Johnson had just assumed the presidency when Bill Goetz was elected to the Fort Mitchell City Council. Ronald Reagan was completing his first term as president when Bill Goetz was appointed to the NKAPCouncil by the Fort Mitchell City Council. And, Bill Clinton was midway through his second term when Bill Goetz was elected to the NKAPCommission.

Bill Goetz decided earlier this year to call it a career. His colleagues on those NKAPC—now PDS public bodies decided last month to call those 52 years “distinguished” as they adopted a joint resolution honoring Goetz for his service.

Among the accolades included in the joint resolution by the PDS Council and PDS Management Board were these:

“WHEREAS William H. Goetz served continuously as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council until 1993; and

WHEREAS during this time period members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council elected William H. Goetz to be their president from 1984 through 1987; and

WHEREAS members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council elected William H. Goetz in 1998 to serve as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission; and

WHEREAS William H. Goetz served continuously as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission until 2016; and

WHEREAS during this time period members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission elected William H. Goetz to serve as their treasurer from 2000 through 2003 and their chairman from 2004 through 2011; and

WHEREAS his role in service to the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council and Area Planning Commission were marked with dedication, distinction, commitment, and integrity.”

Members of the two boards also certified that:

“WHEREAS this exemplary record of service to the two organizations ends this month as William H. Goetz declined to stand for re-election to the Planning and Development Services Management Board; and

WHEREAS his decision marks the end of 52+ consecutive years (since 01/01/64) that he’s held a statutory office in the Commonwealth—one of the longest in Kentucky history.”

In conclusion, members of the two boards:

“RESOLVED that a Wall of Distinguished Service be created in a prominent location in the PDS Building to be a lasting tribute to those individuals whose dedication and service to “more efficient planning” improved the quality of life for all Kenton Countians and that a copy of this joint resolution honoring William H. Goetz be the first mark of respect to be placed there.”


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.”

PDS Council approves FY16 budget; okays “compensating” tax rate

Posted on August 28, 2015

PDS’ budget for Fiscal Year 2016 continues a number of trends related to both revenues and expenditures for the organization. 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 initiated in FY08 and accelerated in FY10.”

“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 2008 budget for example was our largest as the Great Recession took hold of everything. All budgets since then—including Fiscal Year 2016’s—have been varying numbers smaller than 2008’s”

Like most of those, FY16’s budget is being funded primarily through a “compensating tax rate” or less 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 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 the elected officials was an overall decrease in the budget’s bottom line.

“This new fiscal year budget is only a little larger than our Fiscal Year 2005 budget,” said Gordon. “This represents a meager ten percent budget increase over the past ten years—or put another way—an average annual increase of just one percent.”


PDS Council welcomes new members; elects officers, board members

Posted on March 02, 2015
The impacts of November’s elections were apparent last month when the PDS Council met for its annual organizational meeting. Someone other than the elected official who sat on the council in 2014 represented eight of the Council’s 20 jurisdictions. Edgewood Mayor John Link was elected the council’s president for 2015; Lakeside Park Mayor Dave Jansing was elected vice president and Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof was re-elected secretary. All terms run through January next year.

In another voting procedure, councilmembers elected three individuals to serve two-year terms on the PDS Management Board. Elected were County Commissioner Beth Sewell of Covington, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, and former Taylor Mill mayor Mark Kreimborg.
 
Four other individuals serve on the management board, having been elected in 2014 to two-year terms. They are former Fort Wright mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, former Fort Mitchell mayor Bill Goetz, and former Independence mayor Chris Moriconi.

As directed by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the PDS Council provides a forum in which Kenton County planning issues can be debated and consensus can be achieved. With a membership of elected officials only, the council is also responsible for final review of the organization’s annual budget and the tax rate that funds it.

The management board is the body that sets the organization’s general direction, oversees the county’s planning staff, and develops its annual work program and budget.

Others included on the ballot for seats on the management board were former Fort Wright mayor Gene Weaver and former Villa Hills mayor Mike Martin.