Awards for Excellence: City of Raleigh, NC

Online Calculator for Development Services Fees

About City of Raleigh, NC

The City of Raleigh is a scenic community known as the "City of Oaks" for its beautiful oak trees that line the streets. In 2018, the City had an estimated population of 469,298 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). During the fiscal year of 2018, Raleigh adopted a Development Services User Fee policy associated with land, building, and development permitting fees. The policy also approved the City's ability to levy fees for construction and development projects which temporarily occupy the City's right-of-way.  Stakeholder engagement and transparency were at the forefront of the policy-making and user fee study process, including key representatives from the building community. The user fee study illuminated the potential for increased transparency in how developers estimate permitting fees based upon project size, types, and location. The City moved to establish a cross-functional team of Finance and Information Technology staff to assist in developing a fee calculator for developers, adhering to their concerns. This team then created, designed, tested, and launched five fee calculators to be utilized in estimating approximately 75% of required permitted fees associated with project development in the City of Raleigh. These five areas were:

  • Building and Trade Permits (based upon the occupancy type, size, and construction valuation of the proposed project);
  • Right-of-Way Occupancy Permit Fees (based upon the type, location, length, and duration of proposed obstructions in the City's right-of-way);
  • Stormwater Fees (collected for stormwater control permits and stormwater device replacement);
  • Thoroughfare Facility Fees (based upon the land use impact of a developer's project and are used to support street improvement projects);
  • Open Space Facility Fees (based upon the land use impact of a developer's project and are used to support acquisition of open space and parks projects).

Above: the homepage on Raleigh's website for strategic economic development and innovation.


The first calculator developed by the cross-functional team (Building and Trade Permits) was well received by the development community, inspiring the development of the four additional permit fee calculators. The full launch of all remaining fee calculators occurred in the fall of 2018, and is believed to have aided the City's goals in increasing their transparency and providing a public interface.

Implementation of Best Practice

The City of Raleigh engaged in an exemplary process of the GFOA Best Practice on Establishing Government Charges and Fees in the following ways:

  • The City conducted a user fee study in relation to the Development Services User Fee policy, and incorporated all crucial stakeholders in order to promote feedback and collaboration. This led to the focus among developers around the transparency of the permit fee calculation process.
  • All five of the developed calculators for permit fees rely on a comprehensive calculation of the characteristics of a proposed project or construction, to provide a basis for setting the permit fee.
  • Transparency was emphasized in conception and throughout implementation, which culminated in the calculators existing on the City's website, available to all citizens and developers of Raleigh who seek an accurate estimation of the permit fees applicable to their proposed projects.

Tools and Resources

GFOA Best Practice: Establishing Government Charges and Fees

GFOA supports charges and fees as a way to help finance governmental goods and services and recommends that governments adopt formal policies and calculate the full cost of providing a service as a basis for setting the charge or fee.