The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission, also know as NKAPC, is changing its name to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County, or simply PDS.
Clarity is the driving force behind the name change.
This name change will put an end to the confusion created by two connected organizations that both used the term ‘planning commission’ in their names: the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission and the Kenton County Planning Commission.
A communications assessment conducted for NKAPC in 2011 found that the number one problem people had with the organization was confusion about the services that NKAPC provided and how they differ from those provided by the Kenton County Planning Commission.
Yes. Planning and Development Services of Kenton County reflects the true mission of the organization as a service provider on behalf of the county’s 20 local governments—a city-county planning department, if you will. It also helps delineate which body is the decision maker and which supports those who make the decisions.
Also, the new name reflects the true service area of the organization, not the greater Northern Kentucky community, which was the original mission of the Northern Kentucky Planning Commission as envisioned by Northern Kentucky’s legislative delegation in 1960.
Following a 2011 petition drive that sought to eliminate NKAPC, the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council—the agency’s governing body made up of local elected officials—took a six-month, comprehensive look at the organization and how it was operating.
Council members examined the agency’s finances, staffing, administration, operations, and more. After finishing their review, those elected officials made 16 recommendations to improve the organization’s efficiencies and effectiveness. Members and NKAPC staff have worked diligently since then to complete those recommendations.
After completing the objectives set forth in those recommendations, the final task was to eliminate the confusion and false perceptions created by the NKAPC name.
Yes. The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council—once again, the organization’s governing body—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Council and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission—the seven-member board selected by elected officials to oversee the staff—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Management Board. In both instances, these new names better reflect the mission of these bodies.
The name of the Kenton County Planning Commission will remain the same since it is this body charged by state statutes with pursuing planning and zoning responsibilities for all Kenton County communities.
This collaborative services model saves taxpayer dollars by providing planning and development services on behalf of Kenton County’s 20 local governments, which don’t have to hire staff individually to provide these services. PDS works in concert with these local governments to provide services, answer questions and concerns, staff their planning commission, and ensure that these communities are developed (and redeveloped) in a healthy, safe, and effective way.
PDS offers a wide array of services – planning and zoning, infrastructure engineering, building codes administration, GIS mapping, and a One Stop Shop program for codes enforcement. It also provides technical support to first-responders in times of emergency, all of which makes the community better, safer, and more professionally planned and developed.
PDS also facilitates economic development by working closely and professionally with elected officials, economic development professionals, real-estate developers, utility providers, and the construction industry in general.
The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission and staff pursued the following organizational and operational changes between 2012 and 2014 in direct response to the area planning council’s recommendations:
Review agency costs and fees on a regular basis to ensure that fees cover costs and are in line with the fees charged in other jurisdictions
Separate the LINK-GIS partnership budget from the PDS budget and reduce tax-revenue contributions to the LINK-GIS program
- Recalculate all of the agency’s component costs and implement new billable hour rates to ensure these rates cover all applicable costs for staff.
- Increase administrative fees set by the Area Planning Commission to cover costs authorized by the Kentucky Revised Statutes; benchmark these fees against what other jurisdictions charge in Northern Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati area, and monitor these costs and fees on an annual basis.
Examine agency operations and implement changes to achieve cost savings and efficiencies
- Reduce tax-revenue contributions to the LINK-GIS partnership and encourage the partners of the program to review how various GIS services are funded for non-partner users and determine whether it is feasible to charge them for different levels of data delivery.
- Separate out the LINK-GIS partnership’s revenues, expenditures, and reserves from the PDS budget so each organization’s budget and priorities can be viewed separately and more objectively.
Examine the effectiveness of the One Stop Shop program and implement cost savings
- Analyze PDS staff’s space needs in the agency’s building to ensure this space is being put to its most productive use and consider the possibility of renting building space to third parties, if appropriate.
- Address with the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board the need to recover part of the costs that are driven by that program, including encouraging the Board to decrease the number of fines forgiven and increase the amount of levied fines that are collected; imposing minimum administrative costs in addition to fines; and tracking staff time associated with this program to facilitate the calculation of administrative costs.
- Continue to review healthcare insurance options to hold the line on this annual cost.
- Reprogram the agency’s timekeeping software to improve accountability and transparency and accuracy for billing purposes. Pursue new time-keeping software to facilitate this process if the current software can’t provide the needed information.
- Review all One Stop Shop program agreements with local governments and the services provided through these agreements to ensure that service levels identified in the agreements match the services actually being provided and the charges being billed.
- Pursue a new RFQ for One Stop Shop electrical inspection services to ensure that service levels being provided and fees being charged are appropriate.
These changes were made to make PDS more efficient, understandable, accountable, and transparent. These changes provide a more responsive and accountable way of providing services to residents, communities, and businesses.
Accountability is a hallmark of PDS. These changes are being made in part to ensure that the organization continues to be responsive to the concerns of the community as it has for the past 53 years.
No—and it never has. One of the misconceptions about NKAPC—now PDS—is that it performed a numbers of tasks for which it had no responsibility. Those are tasks assigned to the Kenton County Planning Commission. But, because NKAPC provided staff services to the Kenton County Planning Commission, and because hearings were held at the NKAPC Building, a commonly-held perception was that NKAPC made the decisions. This is part of the confusion that led NKAPC officials to change its name to Planning and Development services.
Because state statutes for planning and zoning commissions are fairly specific, the impact of these changes on the Kenton County Planning Commission is limited. Until now, the Area Planning Commission’s budget covered a share of the costs for providing staff services to the Kenton County Planning Commission. This past budget practice made it difficult to assess all costs directly associated with serving the county planning commission. Under the new transparent financing model, these costs now will be shown as part of the Kenton County Planning Commission’s budget.
PDS and county planning commission officials outlined this change in a Memorandum of Understanding approved by both bodies. More importantly, this change was a direct result of the request by Kenton County local elected officials for a more efficient, understandable, accountable, and transparent planning operation.
Keep in mind that the same local elected officials who participate in the PDS Council, which is responsible for the PDS Management Board and PDS staff, also appoint members to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the body that hears planning and zoning cases and makes recommendations to local elected officials. Kenton County elected officials are firmly in control of the entire planning operation.
As part of this process, the agency examined the operations of the 11 planning agencies in Northern Kentucky and most in Greater Cincinnati along with a number of others in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Of the 76 planning units examined, 67 operate roughly the same operational model as PDS will as it goes forward. That model starts with elected officials who: 1) hold the responsibility to appoint citizens to the local planning commission; 2) approve the tax funding to pay for the professional staff needed to support the local planning commission and provide other governmental services; and 3) set broad policy guidelines for the day-to-day operations of the planning unit.
Each community finances these services through fees and taxes, whether it’s a direct tax or a jurisdiction’s general taxes that are allocated for this purpose. Regardless of the method of funding for these planning and development services, the common thread in 67 of this 76 planning units is that elected officials have the final say on the budget, what’s included in that budget, what services are provided, and who pays for those services.
Actually, three separate courts have ruled that NKAPC has been operating legally and within the state statutes that created the organization more than 50 years ago. While it is true that state lawmakers originally contemplated NKAPC as a regional entity, Boone County chose not to join NKAPC in 1961 and in the early 1980s Campbell County voters passed a ballot initiative that eliminated funding for regional planning. But, despite the legal challenges, the courts have been unanimous and clear that NKAPC is operating legally in Kenton County.
Yes. As was the case with NKAPC, PDS can continue to provide services on a contractual basis to other local governments – cities and counties – in the region. This has been a long-held practice at NKAPC. The program is built on the organization’s “critical mass” of professionals, providing economies of scale that are impossible for local jurisdictions to match and levels of service the local jurisdictions can’t afford. It should be noted that those governments pay for these services, not Kenton County taxpayers.
PDS staff will pursue a number of outreach activities over the next six months intended to explain these changes and highlight the services the organization provides. Changes will be made on pdskc.org as we transition onto pdskc.org.