Denver’s planning department racked up almost $1 million in overtime last year

The recent addition of 28 staffers could reverse the trend of rising overtime costs, according to Denver Community Planning and Development.

A pile of rubble at 21st and Arapahoe Streets, Oct. 26, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A pile of rubble at 21st and Arapahoe Streets, Oct. 26, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty; construction; demolition; downtown; five points; ballpark;
A pile of rubble at 21st and Arapahoe Streets, Oct. 26, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

City planners put in almost $1 million worth of overtime last year while swimming through the tidal wave of Denver development projects coming their way.

As of Nov. 3, the Denver Community Planning and Development department already had surpassed the number of permits approved in all of 2016, but the recent addition of 28 staffers could reverse the trend of rising overtime costs, said department spokeswoman Laura Swartz.

“Our overtime is projected to be $820,000 by the end of the year this year,” Swartz said. If that pans out, CPD will have cut its overtime spending by 11.7 percent — $108,886 — year over year.

“We’re hoping that overtime number continues to decrease as we’re fully staffed,” she said.

The overtime numbers reflect the unprecedented demand for building permits CPD is seeing, forcing its limited staff to work harder than ever to keep pace.

Earlier this year, the Denver Auditor’s Office issued a report pointing out many “inefficiencies” in the department’s permitting processes that are “holding up the business of growing and developing the city of Denver.”

CPD took “major steps” to improve service including launching its first electronic permitting system, outsourcing some reviews, hiring more people and paying overtime. All those steps allow the department to provide timely reviews of residential and commercial construction projects.

“People who were doing work in Denver a couple years ago probably thought there were really long wait times,” Swartz said. “Whereas now, we are on time for all of our plan review targets. And we didn’t increase those targets just because the volume and level of work increased.”

Year
Permits Issued
Cost Valuation of Permitted Work
2013 55,252 $2.6 billion
2014 67,818 $2.4 billion
2015 73,740 $3.6 billion
2016 64,624 $3.7 billion
2017* 65,131 $3.6 billion
*2017 Numbers are as of Nov. 3, 2017. Source: Denver CPD

With the equivalent of 271 fulltime employees, Denver CPD has filled almost all of its positions. The department listed four open positions as of Thursday.

In addition to more employees in recent years, CPD is also getting more dollars.

City officials suggest giving the department $32 million from the general fund in 2018. If approved, CPD would get an 8.6 percent increase or $2.54 million dollar bump. Denver City Council is expected to discuss the 2018 budget Monday and finalize it before the end of the month.

Year-to-Date Comparison
2016 2017
Permits Issued 56,070 65,131
Cost Valuation of Permitted Work $3.1 billion $3.6 billion
Annual data is Jan. 1 through Nov. 3. Source: Denver CPD

An earlier version of this article underreported the cost valuations for permitted work in Denver. The city is issuing thousands of permits totaling billions of dollars in construction spending. 

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.