It's unusual for the government to say it has more money than it needs and give some of it back, but that's exactly what the county plans to do, King County Executive Ron Sims announced this morning.

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It’s unusual for the government to say it has more money than it needs and give some of it back, but that’s exactly what the county plans to do, King County Executive Ron Sims announced this morning.


The county’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) will refund about $2 million to more than 6,000 people who paid too much for building permits in 2004.


An increase in permit fees at the beginning of the year, combined with efforts to reduce the department’s costs mean the department collected more money than it needed.


The county also plans to reduce permit fees to pre-2004 levels.


“Our philosophy is to never ask for more than we need, and never keep more than we use,” Sims said a news conference with the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties in Bellevue.


The average refunds – split evenly between individuals and developers – will be $630 for a single family home, $131 for a remodeling job, and $1,076 for commercial construction. The refunds apply only to people building in unincorporated King County.


A year and half ago, the county had predicted that it would need to increase permit fees in 2004 to keep up with costs. The increases varied depending on the type of permit a person purchased.


Instead, interest rates stayed low and demand for housing stayed constant, spurring construction in the county.


At the same time, the department streamlined many of its operations, such as shortening the time period to receive a permit and assigning project managers to alert people early about problems with their permits.


Stephanie Warden, DDES director, said today that those efficiencies saved the department money.


The department has already processed 7,000 building and land use permits this year, and anticipates completing another 500 by the end of the month.


Peter Orser, president of both the Master Builders Association and Quadrant Homes, said at the news conference that had has never seen builders get money back from the government. His company built almost 300 single-family homes this year, and he estimated Quadrant will receive about $150,000 back from the county.