Through a recent ordinance amending the City of Newton Code, the Newton City Commission approved an increase in the renewal licenses fee for trades, such as Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing.

The commission requested that the item be readdressed in January because the renewal fee was previously set at 50 percent of the cost for a new license.

Such a cost break for current license holders could have been seen as unfair to those who will have to pay the full fee for new city trades licenses.

To avoid that unfairness, Newton Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis said the commission felt it was best to keep the renewal cost the same as the fee for a new license.

Nonetheless, as this change occurred in January, Loomis said the additional costs for a license renewal will not affect trades license holders until next year, when they will need to reapply.

Loomis also noted this change mirrors the building contractor license renewal fee, which was also made the same as its new license fee.

Resolving a separate issue, the city added a curb replacement fee to the existing fee for replacing gutters – amounting to a total cost. That fee didn’t shift from the costs outlined in December.

Loomis said this change resulted because the city cannot replace a curb without also replacing the gutter, or vice versa – because they are connected.

Current building standards had the curb and gutter as a "monolithic item," but Loomis said they are not built separately and do not have a joint separating them.

During the previous meeting, when the fee upgrades were orginally discussed (in December), the commission approved an ordinance to upgrade (or in some cases increase) building permit fees, license fees, trade permit fees and fees for pavement cuts.

Although Loomis said Public Works wanted to avoid discouraging new developers, she commented on the city's need to ensure existing businesses and residents are not carrying the cost of new businesses.

One way of helping the community pay for the rising costs of failing infrastructure, which is often taxed by new development use, is via building permit fees. The money from those fees is deposited into the general fund and can help keep the mill levy down.

According to data presented by Loomis, the cost of building permits adjusts according to total project value (or valuation).

If construction value is $5,000, the cost for a building permit will be $90 (it was previously $69), if construction value is $10,000, the new cost of a building permit is $142 (versus the previous $109) and if construction valuation is $50,000, the new cost of a building permit is $493 (previously $379).

$5,000, $10,000 and $50,000 projects were only provided as examples. The final cost of a building permit will correspond with an individual project's valuation.

Also, as a result of the recent fees upgrade, contractor class and trades license fees have risen.

A Class A Contractor's license now costs $200 (previously $150), a Class B license now costs $150 (previously $125) and Class D licenses are now set at $125 (previously $75).

Regarding trades license fees, Trades Contractor licenses cost $150 (previously $125), Master licenses cost $40 (versus $25), Journeyman licenses cost $20 (versus the previous $10) and Specialty licenses cost $200.

Also within the new changes; Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing Trade Permits now cost over $20, and Excavation permits will cost $30 (versus the previous cost of $20).

According to previously presented data, the difference in revenue generated by the new fees is expected to shift from the $185,055 in 2015 to roughly $241,871 in 2017, with an estimated revenue difference/increase of $56,816. Loomis said the last time the fees were increased was in 2011.

Even when considering these updated or increased fees, Loomis said Newton will remain in the lower to median price range regarding such fees – in comparison to a number of other Kansas cities.

Loomis said official information about the updates has already been sent to area contractors.

At the time of this story, The Kansan attempted to reach a number of area contractors. However, they were not available for comment.