The vast majority of the fees charged for Saint Paul city services are increasing 1.5 percent in 2022. However, the owners of rental housing, commercial buildings, vacant buildings, and buildings with elevators can expect to see much steeper city fee increases this year.

Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) has paid for its operations largely through fees for many years. Those fees are typically raised every few years to cover the costs of inspections and the issuance of various licenses and permits.

In his 2022 budget address, DSI director Ricardo Cervantes outlined the growing demand on his department in recent years despite the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the number of building permits was up 10 percent in 2020 and 19 percent in 2021, according to him. Requests for construction plan reviews increased 13 percent in 2021.

The fee for registering a vacant building with the city is increasing from $2,127 to $2,459. Those fees recover the cost of monitoring the approximately 600 registered vacant buildings in Saint Paul. Monitoring is needed to deter illegal entry and squatters and to prevent vacant buildings from falling into disrepair.

The fee for building inspections related to a fire certificate of occupancy is increasing 10 percent. The city issues about 4,500 of the certificates annually. The fees have remained flat since 2014, and less than 50 percent of DSI’s costs were being recovered, Cervantes said.

The fire certificate of occupancy fees for a multifamily dwelling vary by the number of units in the building. The fee for a single-family rental house will increase from $206 to $227. The fee for a fourplex will increase from $264 to $290. The fee for an apartment complex with 100 or more units will increase from $913 to $1,004.

The fire certificate of occupancy fees for a commercial building vary by total square footage. For an 118,000-square-foot building, the fee will increase from $870 to $957.

The fee for registering a vacant building with the city is increasing from $2,127 to $2,459. Those fees recover the cost of monitoring the approximately 600 registered vacant buildings in Saint Paul. Monitoring is needed to deter illegal entry and squatters and to prevent vacant buildings from falling into disrepair.

State-mandated elevator inspections is another area where fees have greatly fallen behind the actual cost of providing the service, according to Cervantes. The expense of inspecting elevators in the city is estimated at about $420,000 per year. Last year the fees recovered about $185,000 or 44 percent of the city’s expenses. The new fees are intended to recover 85 percent of the city’s expenses.

The elevator inspection fees are set by the number of stories in a building. The fee for a building of up to five stories is increasing from $93 to $149. For a building of 21 or more stories, the fee is increasing from $133 to $213. The fees for escalators are increasing from $78 to $149.  

With all of the increases, DSI expects to increase its revenue from fees from $20.1 million in 2021 to $20.7 million in 2022.

— Jane McClure

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