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Process Improvement

How SAFEbuilt Plans for Trends That Impact Building Department Revenue Streams

Joe DeRosa

Learn how municipalities can stabilize budgets by planning for trends within a community.

While no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, it helps to get a handle on current and emerging trends before making decisions about your building department’s budget. This means paying extra attention to relevant activities and patterns in your community, region, and across the country. You’ll also want to consider your community’s specific development plans and needs in conjunction with those outside factors. There are also several essential operational Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and service delivery metrics you can consider to help stabilize budgets.

We at SAFEbuilt start by looking at what projects are on the horizon for a particular community and consider the projects that are already on the docket. This helps us make better recommendations on allocating a community’s funds.

From there, we work with municipal leaders to better understand a community’s most pressing needs to determine funding priorities moving forward. For example, a municipality might require certain infrastructure improvements, such as bridges, roadways, or stormwater management. This allows us to guide our clients and help them to prioritize and adjust projects to build an accurate and realistic spending projection.

We also recommend combining the above actions by tracking the efficiency of a department’s service delivery. In one case, SAFEbuilt partnered with the City of Johns Creek in Georgia to help them uncover areas for operational efficiency. Specifically, this included tracking historical data, measuring for trends, and identifying additional areas for efficiency by defining performance measures, metrics, and targets.

Our input in developing a series of monthly and annual KPIs was drawn from our local and regional teams, experience with similar communities, and the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB). Working with the municipal staff, we established base-line service levels related to building department services such as plan review turnarounds, inspection timeliness, and seasonal staffing levels.

Those performance standards provided several tangible results for Johns Creek. Most importantly, the metrics can now be provided to the City Manager and elected officials to aid in measuring service targets and allocating resources. Not only can performance now be measured, but the City also has an effective tool to better manage its fiscal responsibilities.

In a similar situation, we helped the city of Troy, Michigan realize more proficient and customer-friendly operations, leading to a budget savings of almost $1 million. In addition to implementing performance metrics, we suggested reconfiguring the department’s office space within City Hall to improve workflow. They now use half the square footage to accomplish the same amount of work. Additionally, thousands of paper records were scanned for more efficient archiving and retrieval, and inspectors were equipped with wireless laptops, so they could access and enter information in the field–saving both time and money.

These are just a handful of examples of how SAFEbuilt supports municipalities in planning for ever-fluctuating Building Department revenue streams, and how we execute on our belief that excellent service and cost efficiency go hand-in-hand.

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SAFEbuilt is a community development services company. We provide comprehensive building department, private provider, and other professional services with the goal of helping our customers build better, safer communities.

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