Gaps in commercial building permit records and inaccurate charges are among some of the findings in an audit of Pasco County’s Central Permitting office.
Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller Paula S. O’Neil investigated the county’s assessment and collection of transportation fees at the request of an anonymous letter citing concerns with oversight. The commission voted to accept the results of the audit this month.
County Inspector General Patrice Monaco-McBride compiled the details of the audit released March 12.
Mobility fees should be assessed and collected when a commercial development permit is issued. But between April 2016 and July 2017, the records needed to accurately assess fees were incomplete, inaccurate or unaccounted for.
The audit reports that in some cases, the county mischarged developers.
County Administrator Dan Biles said the errors come down to employees transitioning to a new software system called Accela, a management system used to track land use and development documents.
Biles said, for example, 31,614 of the 109,673 permits not included on the Building Permit Report were not missing. Rather they were likely incomplete permit applications.
“Eventually, Accela would delete that (the application) because a permit was never issued, but the (sequence) number would remain,” he said.
Development in Pasco County is growing. Biles said the county issued 50,000 permits in 2018. The audit underscores how this growth influences investment in the county.
“Development activity generating new transportation demands required the payment of mobility fees to help finance necessary new capital improvements to maintain an acceptable level of transportation system capacity and quality of life in the County,” the audit reads.
Of the 237 permits randomly selected in the audit, 19 included problems.
Inaccuracies with fee assessment and collection can affect businesses.
For example, in the report, the mobility fees issued on one permit for an unnamed drive-thru fast food restaurant totaled more than $120,000. The Tampa Bay Times reported the business is a stand-alone Dunkin’ Donuts in Land O’ Lakes.
The developer disagreed with the county’s assessment, according to an email. The property was re-assessed as a convenience store, which reduced fees by $58,852.
Other audit findings include:
- For three building permits, a required Certificate of Occupancy was not included in the permit file; 14 permits did not have the required Land Use Code; 13 permits did not have an Impact Summary; and five permits were not given to the inspector general because Central Permitting couldn’t locate the files, according to the report.
- For one project in March 2017, mobility fees and administration fee were not assessed and collected, but the county issued a permit. The charge should have $13,778.80.
- Last year, the county began the process of refunding a developer after overcharging the company. The amount paid was $6,227, but the original assessment back in December 2016 was $4,565.
The clerk recommended the county train staff on new software and update documentation and record keeping methods.
Biles said the office is working to make those improvements.
“The goal is to bring that error rate down to less than a percent,” he said. “We believe with implementing the processes and some of the improvements recommended by the clerk over the past 12 months or so, we’ve brought that error rate down significantly from the six or seven percent error rate (showed in the audit).”
Correction: The reason for calling the audit was incorrectly reported when this article was first published. The audit was requested in an anonymous letter. It was previously reported that the commission called for the audit. The board approved the results of the report on March 12.