Amy Kobe, executive director of the Ohio Architects Board and the Ohio Landscape Architects Board explained the Board’s mandate during March 17 testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee studying the Governor’s Budget proposal, HB 64. Kobe said, “The mission of the boards is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Ohio. The boards uphold the national standards of the professions through licensure, regulation and enforcement. The board office operates with a staff of four. There has been no increase in the number of staff since 1981. During that time, the number of active registrants has more than doubled and the number of exam candidates has quadrupled. The number of licensed firms tripled since 2004.
“In the coming biennium (FY16-17), the boards are projecting total revenues of approximately $1.47 million. The board requested an FY16 appropriation of $507,614 for FY16, and $551,264 in FY17, for a total request of $1.058 million. The recommendation was for $507,614 in FY16 and $517,492 for FY17, which is not sufficient to maintain the levels of service we should be providing to our customers. During the recession, the board’s non-payroll budget was cut by 30 percent. In order to meet this goal, among other reductions, online renewals were discontinued. We desperately need to reinstate this service.
“The board also achieved other cost savings by reducing the number board meetings, which lowered travel and meeting expenses. Adopting a consent agenda reduced the length of the meetings, and emailing board meeting materials has reduced printing expenses. The board almost exclusively communicates with licensees electronically, which has reduced postage and printing expenditures. Our frequent emails to customers are well-received and we receive many compliments on our communications.
“As the Internet has expanded, consumers have come to expect the convenience of online services. The boards are requesting restoration of the funding needed to provide online renewals as well as new applications. The problem with online services is the high cost of credit card fees, which average $3.05 per transaction. The estimated two-year cost of providing online services for renewals and new applications is $36,600, plus IT development expenses. At $110 per hour, IT developments costs are conservatively estimated at $11,000 (biennial cost) for online renewals and new applications.”
Chairwoman Grossman asked how long it would take to get the renewal process online. Kobe said in the past it was given a 90 day window. Grossman asked if Kobe was having discussions with the appropriate people to start the process. Kobe said the renewal process doesn’t start for another nine months so she has not started the process. Rep. Green asked if the increase in rent was something happening to all agencies or just this one. Kobe said, “We don’t have any more space but they have changed the way rent is calculated.” Rep. Clyde asked if applicants and licensures are the bulk of Kobe’s customers. Kobe said applicants and licensures are the bulk of their customers, but they also deal with complaints and general inquiries.