Oregon Travel Experience is proposing a revision to its current permit fee schedule for all of our Highway Business Sign Customers, and how we go about determining a fair price for your signs.
A public hearing on the revisions has been scheduled for Thursday, December 11, 2014 at the OTE Salem headquarters (time to be announced on this page), 1500 Liberty St SE, Suite 150, Salem, OR 97321. Sign customers are encouraged to attend or to submit written testimony to the Council. Email testimony should be submitted by Thursday, December 4, 2014.
This is the second public hearing in regards to a sign permit fee restructure proposal. The first hearing allowed the Council to hear feedback from sign customers across the state and as a result, the Council asked OTE for more information in order to make an informed decision. This second proposal has been modified from the first, and is based in part, on customer feedback.
Why we need to adopt revisions
OTE has maintained the program with a lower than national average fee for all categories of signs since 1972. Program fees have followed a three-category schedule based on sign location, sign type, and sign density factors.
What makes the Business Highway Sign permit substantially different from other state agency funded programs is that OTE receives no General Fund (or other taxpayer dollars) to operate the program. The program is funded by the actual permit fees themselves. Engineering and production costs, skilled labor for installation, materials such as steel and reflective material, and onsite repairs and maintenance are derived entirely from permit revenue. OTE manages these funds and the budget is overseen and tracked by the Oregon Travel Information Council and the State of Oregon.
Our lowest cost permit had not increased since 1997–making it difficult to maintain a sustainable and self-funded program. Our legislative mandate is to operate the Highway Business Sign Program without using General Fund dollars and to meet costs solely through permit fees.
Unfortunately, we are faced with continuously spiraling costs for materials (such as steel, reflective materials and lumber) and skilled labor, and must ensure that your signs are installed and maintained according to federal and state regulations.
While the current schedule may have worked for many customers, it did not consider lesser traveled regions of the state. The existing fee schedule did not set costs according to traffic density or highway mileage (traffic counts at mileage posts). Data about highway mileage is obtained from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Who this will affect
The proposed changes will affect customer signs located in high traffic volume regions (such as Portland Metro, etc.), as well as moderate fee increases to permit holder signs located in low-traffic count areas.
In some instances, permit fees may actually decrease depending upon sign location and type. For example, signs located along low-traffic rural roads that fall under the Tourist Oriented Directional (TOD) category.
Another category of permit holder fees that will see a significant rise are Not-for-Profit and Government Agency/Entity customers.
Under the proposed new rules, businesses or customers who wish to retain their discounted rate under this category must provide OTE with verification of their 501 or 503 status.
OTE is in the process of alerting these customers about both the proposed rate changes and the verification process. Previously, Not-for-Profit and Government Agencies/Entities were placed into two rate categories: one for Interstate signs and one for Off-Interstate.
Under the proposed rule changes, these customers would fall into the same six regions (defined by the Oregon Department of Transportation vehicle count). Permit fees will be adjusted accordingly. This category of customer will continue to receive a discounted rate from commercial businesses.
How we factored the revisions
By comparing traffic count data obtained from the Oregon Department of Transportation with our current fee structure, it became apparent that a majority of customers fell into a fee category not based on how many travelers might actually view a sign.
For example, in low-traffic regions, and on highways less traveled, customers paid the same rates for their signs as those with sign locations on the busiest roadways.
The increases and revisions proposed will allow the state to uniformly assess fees. The proposed structure (based on highway mileage) would increase fees by approximately 10-percent per mileage band—or where the next mile post denotes an increase in traffic density.
OTE is asking its governing body (the Oregon Travel Information Council) to approve a new equitable fee schedule expanded to accommodate a more realistic six regions. Traffic counts have been applied to all highways and mile-points across the state.
Why are we proposing increases to “not-for-profit” rates?
As with commercial fee categories, many not-for-profit organizations may see fee increases if the Council adopts the fee restructure. OTE has historically carried the cost of producing, installing, and maintaining non-profit signage for decades. However, due to increased costs of material, engineering studies, labor, maintenance, and repairs, OTE is unable to continue subsidizing non-profits at the previous rates.
We are cognizant that non-profits still require assistance with their fees and have maintained a substantial discount over commercial rates for these customers. As long as we are able to operate the program solely from permit fees, we will continue to offer not-for-profit discounts to qualifying Oregon businesses.
Your opportunity to voice an opinion
Once you have received and reviewed your individual sign customer letter, you may wish to submit testimony or written opinion before a public hearing on the subject by the Oregon Travel Information Council. You have two opportunities to give public comment:
- Attend a public hearing: A public hearing will be held by the Council to discuss and vote upon the proposed fee restructuring. You are invited to attend this hearing and give testimony in person. The hearing will be held on Thursday, December 11, 2014 (time to be posted here as soon as scheduled) at OTE Salem Headquarters, 1500 Liberty St SE, Suite 150, Salem, Oregon. The Council will hold its regular quarterly meeting to follow, and will deliberate on the fee increase at that time. The public is invited to attend the meeting as well as the hearing. (*Please telephone for ADA accommodations, 503-373-0155.)
- Submit written commentary: You may wish to mail or email your public commentary rather than attend the hearing. In order for your commentary to be entered into the record, and to be considered by the Council, your written communication should be sent to the attention of Diane at: OTE Proposed fee restructuring, 1500 Liberty St SE, Suite 150, Salem, OR, 97302 or via email: email@example.com. The deadline for written public commentary is Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 4:00 p.m.
PowerPoint presentation on the sign fee proposed restructuring submitted at the May 20, 2014 Council meeting: View a PDF document of the PowerPoint presented to the Council’s last public meeting. This presentation includes: current rates juxtaposed against proposed rates, traffic density along all highways and roadways where there are sign customers, maps that show where sign customers are located, and other pertinent information.
Sample customer letter: View a PDF file of a formatted customer letter sent by OTE to alert customers of the proposed rule changes.
Current sign rules: View the original OARs and proposed changes (in PDF format). Council will still need to approve this OARs amendment at the public hearing.
Not-For-Profit verification letter: View a PDF file of the letter sent to Not-For-Profitand Government Agency sign customers, requesting verification of their 501 or 503 status.