State Statutes and the Funding of Essential Services of Local Building Departments


Author: Andrew Stuffler, Chief Building Official, City of Santa Barbara

These are strenuous times for local government. Unprecedented. As the Building Official of a community of 100,000 people, the challenges and competing priorities that are coming across my desk may be similar to yours. Like many cities and counties, our Building & Safety program is a General Fund program. After the Great Recession, our City worked hard and made difficult decisions each year to be good stewards and restore our General Fund reserve account. None of us imagined that a pandemic would create the current and forecasted shortfalls in sales tax and transient occupancy tax (hotel tax) revenues that could potentially consume our entire reserve account before the end of 2020. This may sound all too familiar to you and your community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has begun to create large budget revenue deficits in our city and many others throughout the state. In response, we are being asked to make corresponding expense reductions to our General Fund supported services.

This is an important time to remember that there are applicable California statutes relative to certain fees and how those fee revenues are spent. In short, building permit and CASp fees are not collected to fund unrelated General Fund program shortfalls and irregularities – unless the public has voted in favor of making those appropriations a tax rather than a fee.

Here are several important State statutes to keep in mind:

California Government Code Section 66014 and Health and Safety Code 17951, both serve to protect building permit revenues solely for building permit related service delivery. Typically, those services include: Permit Counters, Plan Reviews, Inspections, Enforcement of Building Standards, and the associated Records Management and Archival programs.

California Government Code, Section 4467 requires cities and counties to collect and retain $4 per business licenses (or building permit if there is no business license program) specifically for the support of their CASp program and education of residents and contractors of accessibility laws and regulations.

California Health & Safety Code, Section 18949 enables local building departments to charge, collect and retain fees specifically for the continuing education and training of each Plans Examiner, Inspector and Building Official employed, for the purposes of maintaining their State mandated certification.

These statutory protections can assist the funding of your operations in times of fiscal uncertainty and the protection of funding as identified in state law. The staff and training afforded by the above statutes ensures our community’s long-term resiliency, sustainability and accessibility. This is about civil rights, sustainability and public safety.

If you have questions about this article, please reach out to the CALBO Office at or 916-457-1103.