The primary duties of the Board include: examine applicants for competency as land surveyors in the state of West Virginia, and if they are found competent, issue them a license to practice land surveying in West Virginia as necessary; issue regulations to control the practice of land surveying in West Virginia to protect the public; receive complaints against surveyors; determine the merits of the complaints; and issue disciplinary orders if necessary.
The Board normally meets once in the Spring and once in the Fall to administer
the examinations for land surveyors. The Board administers three separate tests,
which are Fundamentals of Land Surveying (FLS), Principles and Practice of Land
Surveying (PPS), and the West Virginia State Exam (WVS). The Board prepares and
grades the WVS portion of the licensing exam. If an individual has the necessary
education and passes the FLS, then he or she becomes what is called a
Surveyor-In-Training. An applicant must pass the FLS before taking the PPS and WVS.
The Board receives its testing materials from the National Council of Examiners for
Engineering and Surveying, which is located in Clemson, South Carolina.
Effective July 1, 1995, an amendment eliminated the professional engineers exemption to licensure as a professional surveyor. The professional engineers were given one year from the effective date to be licensed without an examination. There are currently 1,654 active licensed surveyors and there were 747 active licensed surveyors at the end of 1994. The increase occurred with the professional engineers being "grand fathered".
The Board's office is located in Fayetteville, West Virginia. The Board leases office space from a law firm. The current lease expired on June 30, 1997. The lease covers 550 square feet at $300 per month, including utilities. The March 21 Board meeting, the Board discussed the lease contract. There was a tentative motion to extend the lease for three years. The leaser needs to get approval from the other two members of the law firm, which should be a mere formality.
ISSUE AREA 1: The Administrative Functions of the Board of Examiners of Land Surveyors Should be Consolidated With Three Related Boards.
The performance evaluation issue of consolidation of administrative functions does not stem from the lack of performance by the Board of Examiners of Land Surveyors (BELS), but rather addresses the larger issue of proliferation of licensing boards in West Virginia. There are three reasons to consolidate the administrative staff of related Boards: (1) proliferation of licensing boards creates duplication and reduces accountability; (2) economy of scale of staffing skills in administering exams, processing licenses, investigating complaints, are transferable, and provides a centralized location of files and improved support to the boards; and (3) geographic dispersion of boards around the state reduces accessibility to the public. The public and the four professions can be better served by consolidating the administrative functions of related licensing boards, thereby reducing duplication, improving accountability, increasing efficiency through skilled staff, streamlining processes and staggering license renewal, improving investigation of complaints and increasing accountability to the public. The Legislative Auditor does not propose consolidation of the boards into a single board. The self-regulation of these professions is not the issue, instead, the Legislative Auditor proposes merely the consolidation of the boards' administrative functions.
The need for consolidating similar licensing boards that perform the same functions as other licensing boards was recognized during the 1997 legislative session in Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 22. The resolution requested a ... "study of the process of all boards and commissions of examination and registration who issue licenses to applicants..." The resolution noted that boards have increased in numbers and the possibility of overlapping responsibilities and duplication appears to exist.
West Virginia's first licensing board was created in 1881 and the number has increased to 34 as of 1997. Graph One depicts the proliferation of licensing boards for the period 1881 through 1997.
Purpose and Common Characteristics
Our preliminary review of the Board of Examiners of Land Surveyors is a point
of departure to propose consolidation of administrative functions. The Board of
Examiners of Land Surveyors was created to serve and protect the public from
unqualified individuals practicing land surveying. The Board is accomplishing its
objectives by meeting at least two to four times annually for the past four years to
conduct hearings on complaints and to discuss budgetary data, examination sites and
possible revisions to policies. The Board has investigated and resolved an average of
ten to twelve complaints in each of those four years. The Board is performing its
duties however, combining it with three other cross-related professional boards
would enhance its ability to better serve and protect the public from individuals not
qualified to perform services or not performing to standards in the professions of land
surveying, engineering, architecture and landscape architecture. In addition, each of
these four professions have natural affiliations which have some cross-professional
knowledge which impacts on professional practices. The combining of these board's
professions into one staff, combines similar licensing duties and administrative costs
which can better serve the public with greater accessibility and will reduce licensing
fees in the long term.
The four boards share other common characteristics besides serving the public interest. The primary purpose of licensing boards is to promote the public welfare and regulate the profession by providing standards and testing before issuing a license. The Legislative Auditor selected the Professional Engineers Board, the Board of Architects, and the Board of Landscape Architects because of their natural relationship with the Board of Land Surveyors. All four boards share parts of a larger process in the construction industry. The boards share the following common duties: promulgating rules and regulations for the profession, administering tests and providing test sites, processing applications for licensing; charging fees for licenses and renewals; maintain roster of licensees, issuing, renewing, denying, suspending, or revoking licenses; and investigating alleged violations. The boards location, staff, membership and budget are reported in Table One.
Name of Board
Location of Board
Number of Staff
|Number of Board Members|
Each of the four professions are required to renew their license on June 30 of
each year. As of January 1997, there were 1,654 licensed land surveyors. A substantial
increase in licenses issued by the land surveyors board occurred during fiscal year
1996 because of a change in statute that exempted professional engineers from the
land surveyors examination if they were engaged in surveying work. As of fiscal year
1996, the professional engineers board had licensed 5,251 individuals; the architects
board had licensed 1,035 individuals; and the landscape architects board had licensed
109 individuals. This is a combined total of 8,049 licenses issued by the four boards.
Staffing and Budgetary Operations
Boards maintain a staff to meet the requirements mandated. However, some boards cannot employ full-time staff because of fees generated will not cover the cost of a full-time employee. As shown in Table One, each board maintains a full or part-time staff as follows: the Board of Examiners of Land Surveyors employs one full-time individual; the West Virginia State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers has one full-time administrator and one full-time secretary; the West Virginia State Board of Architects has one part-time deputy director and one full-time administrative secretary; and the West Virginia State Board of Landscape Architects has a part-time secretary. The salaries and benefits for the boards' staff for 1996 fiscal year was $144,056. The personal services cost associated with the boards indicates that two of the four employ a part-time staff. We noted that in addition to the personal services costs, the combined costs for office space and telephone service for 1996 was $29,758.
Each board is compelled to charge licensing fees to be self-supporting to cover
its operational cost. The amount of licensing fees charged is determined by the
budgetary needs in complying with regulatory duty. Maintaining separate staff,
offices and telephone systems creates a budgetary duplication. The combining of
operational costs could over time, reduce the need for frequent increases in licensing
fees. In addition, if all four of the board's administrative functions are combined, then
it would make sense to have the license renewal dates staggered to provide for a more
Average License Cost
The four boards currently issue approximately 8,049 licenses per year which generates approximately $540,000 in revenues. Based on this information, licensees are paying an average of $67 per license. The Legislative Auditor's staff survey of six states that have combined the regulation of these professions into one board with centralized staff, charged an average of $45 per license. The average cost range for the six states was from a low of $30 per license to a high of $62 per license. Table Two shows the number of full-time staff, board members, number of licenses, annual operating budgets and an average cost per license for the six states surveyed. We conclude that autonomous boards become fee driven to meet their budgetary needs, which results in higher license fees being paid by the various professions.
Name of State
Full Time Staff
Number of Board Members
Total Number of
Annual Operating Budget
Accessibility of Licensing Boards to the Public
Sometimes locating a licensing board is a difficult task, even for legislative staff. State legislators have received various complaints from citizens claiming that they have difficulty in contacting some licensing boards. This was noted in a preliminary performance review of the Board of Examiners in Counseling in 1995 which revealed that the staffing arrangement was ineffective in carrying out the mission and mandates of the board. The cause for this issue was no permanent staff, no office space and the use of an answering service that delayed response to complaints because the board members have other jobs. The legislature recommended to the board they make an effort to share office space and staff with other boards. However, this was not achieved. Instead, the Board of Examiners in Counseling hired a part-time employee and rented office space from the West Virginia Graduate college.
The clerk for the Land Surveyors Board told staff that on several occasions people were referred to the board by a surveyor or legislator. The Chairman of the Land Surveyors Board believes West Virginia citizens are best served by having the Board's office located in Fayetteville. According to the Board members, the Board's office needs to be located in or near the hometown of the Secretary of the Board. It has been the Board's practice to have its office located where the Secretary resides and this has been the case since the Board's formation.
The West Virginia Constitution, Article 6, §20 states ... "the seat of government
shall be at Charleston, until otherwise provided by law." Only one of the four
boards, the Board of Professional Engineers, is located in Charleston. Since the state
capitol is located in Charleston, it is the logical place for the public to contact a board.
In addition, logic indicates that if you have part-time staff, locating a board could prove to be difficult. Part-time staffing requires the public to know who the board members are and where they are located. Since most board members have jobs or businesses, this hampers the public's accessibility to the board. One of the rolls for staff is to be available to answer the telephones for inquiries or to take complaints. The public knows that the seat of government is located in Charleston and would check the telephone book in the state government listing to see if the Land Surveyors Board is listed. Should a citizen have a complaint or desire to become licensed, finding a board's location appears to be a random event. Consumers using the telephone directory yellow pages are advised when contacting advertisers that a license may be required by the person or company providing services; specifically it reads:
"Advertisers may be required to be licensed by the State or Local
Municipality. Consumers are advised to check for a valid license when
using the services of these advertisers. For more information, contact
your appropriate regulatory agency."
We checked nine telephone directories for Land Surveyors and the three related boards. Table Three shows that if you do not know the city of the board, you cannot find the number.
Several states throughout the country have more than one profession combined into one board and one centralized location. These professions include land surveying, professional engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture. Legislative Auditors contacted six boards in other states (Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina) to obtain the following information: the number of full-time staff the board employs; the number of board members; the number of people licensed or registered; the annual operating budget; and average cost of license.
The Minnesota Board, which is comprised of 21 members and has a staff of
eight, meets every other month (in the odd numbered months). In the even numbered
months, the two sections of the Board meet. The sections are Architecture/Landscape
Architecture/Interior Design and Engineering/Land Surveying/Geoscience. The
sections are composed of Board members from each profession and deal with topics
specific to each of the professions represented. Any actions contemplated by either
section must be ratified by the entire Board. In addition, the Minnesota Board has two
standing committees which do research on issues and make proposals to the full
Board. The Examination and Licensing Committee and the Enforcement and Law
Committee meet every other month and consist of eight members each. The third
standing committee is the Complaint Committee, comprised of five members. This
committee meets monthly to handle complaints against licensed or certified
practioners. Appointments are made to all three committees by the Board Chair
based on the interest of Board members and the need to have representation of all
professions on as many committees as possible. The Minnesota Board regulates
15,000 individuals in the six professions.
The Executive Secretary of the Minnesota Board believes that the inclusion of these professions on one board has certain advantages. These include: 1) staff costs are less for one large board than for several smaller boards; 2) problems between professions are better met face-to-face rather than by letter or phone call; and 3) greater consistency between the professions in enforcement actions for similar violations.
The South Dakota Board consists of seven members and two staff persons. The
Executive Director stated that a combined board is good in that it forces each
profession to become more familiar with the other professions and understand other
views. Difficulties between professions can be resolved before they become
unmanageable. A combined board eases discussions. Board focus is on whole and
public protection rather than "turf" and individual issues. The Board regulates 3,790
professionals in four professions.
The Kansas Board has 13 members and a staff of four. The Board consists of four professional engineers, three architects, two land surveyors, one landscape architect, and three public members. The Board meets in committees of Professional Engineers/Land Surveyors and Architects/Landscape Architects to consider issues pertaining to those professions. Then the Board meets as a whole for general policy making decisions and compliance issues.
Having a common (somewhat neutral) ground for working out very closely related issues is the biggest advantage in having a combined board, according to the Executive Director of the Kansas Board. The professions which are smaller in number also benefit by the revenue generated by the larger numbers, i.e., engineers vs. landscape architects. Smaller sized boards would have difficulty getting funding for staffing, increased communication via the Internet, newsletters, etc. A stronger enforcement program is also possible. The Board regulates 12,747 licenses in four professions.
The Virginia Board is a 13 member board consisting of five staff members. The
Board is comprised of three architects, three professional engineers, three land
surveyors, two landscape architects and two interior designers that meets four times a
year to consider policy and procedure and to review complaints against individuals
that affect the entire Board. Each section of the Board also functions in an independent
fashion in order to review applications, conduct applicant interviews, and generally
conduct business that is specific to that particular section. Each section also meets four
times a year. The Board regulates five professions and issues 26,200 licenses.
The Arizona Board is a board of technical registration consisting of nine members and has a staff of 15. According to the Executive Director of the Arizona Board, a combined board is more economical and efficient if properly designed and administered. Smaller boards very seldom have the resources to operate effectively and efficiently. The registration fee base in Arizona is large enough to provide quality service at a low cost. The annual renewal cost is currently $42. Next year, the Arizona Board anticipates cutting it back to approximately $30-$35 unless new programs are developed.
In addition, the Executive Director of the Arizona Board states, "A single board handling dealing with all of the issues increases communication between the professions and reduces the possibility of professional bias becoming a major driving force. The cited professions have some natural relationships in the performance of their professional duties and there is some cross profession knowledge and also some concerns about practice impacts. The issues, I believe, get a more balanced discussion and the decisions, in my opinion, are more moderate and more in the public's best interest." Arizona has 18,529 licensees in four professions.
The North Carolina Board is comprised of nine members and 13 staff. The
Board oversees the land surveying and engineering professions only. According to
the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina Board of Registration, there are certain
benefits to having a combined board and administrative staff. These benefits include:
1) Commonality between the professions; 2) Larger registrant population helps keep
fees lower; and 3) One staff and one office holds down overhead. The Board regulates
16,800 licensees in the two professions.
Advantages of Having a Combined Board and Centralized Staff
The Council of State Governments in its report Occupational Licensing: Centralizing State Licensure Functions, concludes that combining what are often part-time or underutilized autonomous board staff into a central agency staff unit can make better use of space, time, and equipment, and renewal of licenses and collection of fees can be handled by a single integrated staff.
Further, the report states that more prompt and orderly work flow can result from a single central licensure agency staff. For example, the scheduling of license renewals can be staggered to promote more even workloads. Full-time staff reporting to an agency administrator can expedite decisions that might otherwise be delayed by part-time staff or infrequent board meetings.
A report by the California Office of the Auditor General lists potential benefits as a result of centralizing functions. It states, "Centralizing functions that a number of individual entities are each performing on a small scale can result in a larger and more consistent volume of work being performed by one entity. The larger entity may realize increases in efficiency and decreases in costs that can be associated with economies of scale. Two examples of the benefits an entity may derive from economies of scale are a more efficient use of equipment and a reduced cost of supplies."
The licensing boards are created to protect public welfare and provide oversight for professions. Accessability to the citizens of this state is one of the top priorities of licensing boards. The state Constitution requires the seat of state government to be in Charleston. Since boards are fee driven and membership is limited, some professions are limited to office location. Board members are sometimes required to carry out the role of administrative staff because of limited funds. Consolidation provides boards with the budgetary needs for a centralized staff and required location which will provide greater accessibility to the public. In addition, the consolidation can provide the funding needed to hire an investigator who can investigate complaints for the four boards. This will allow the current staff to increase their focus on the day to day operations of the office and provide the board with an individual trained to conduct investigations therefore improving protection of the public.
The combining of administrative functions of the four boards provides an opportunity for the economy of scale to occur which is difficult to achieve with autonomous boards. Having four similar boards and staff located in different cities in West Virginia duplicates overhead cost for similar processes. The cost sharing of office space, telephone system, centralized storage of records and purchasing of new computer technology will provide a more efficient operation. A combined administrative effort will increased utilization of staff time and better use of office equipment which will further reduce operational cost. Administrative processes should become more uniform in nature and testing for all professions can be held in a centralized location simultaneously.
The Legislature should consider consolidating the staff of the boards of Land Surveyors, Professional Engineers, Architects, and Landscape Architects into one administrative function, administered by an executive director and located at the seat of state government.
As indicated in Appendix D, the proposed organizational chart for composition of the boards should remain the same to oversee their professions. An Executive Committee should be established, consisting of the four chairs of the boards and a lay member; the Executive Committee should have the authority to hire and have oversight of the staff.
The Legislature should consider allowing the Executive Committee to stagger the licensing renewals of the four licensing boards in order to create a more even workload and steady cash flow. An example of staggered renewal dates would be July 1 for Professional Engineers; September 1 for Architects; January 1 for Land Surveyors; and March 1 for Landscape Architects.