The number of passport applications processed by the Deschutes County Clerk’s Office has ballooned over the past five years, and it doesn’t appear likely to slow down any time soon.

Between fiscal year 2013 and 2018, the county saw a 167 percent increase in passport applications at the clerk’s office. Just in January of this year, the county accepted about 300 applications — the same as it processed in an entire year 18 years ago, Deschutes County Clerk Nancy ­Blankenship said.

“Revenues as well as the volume of passports have increased,” she said.

Monday, the Deschutes County Commission unanimously approved a request from Blankenship to replace a recently vacated part-time administrative support job in her office with a full-time position focused primarily on providing passport services.

The increased cost in wages and benefits — a little less than $9,000 for the few months remaining in the current fiscal year — is covered by higher-than-expected revenue from providing passport services.

The county clerk’s office charges a $35 fee for accepting passport applications, and applicants pay that fee on top of the roughly $140 per adult and $95 per child cost of a passport. The clerk’s office anticipated receiving $36,000 from that fee in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Instead, it’s looking at about $89,000 in revenue from the passport fee, Blankenship said. The number of people requesting passports is about 40 percent higher in the current fiscal year than it was in 2018, she said.

One reason for this is just the number of people moving to Deschutes County, Blankenship said. The county’s 3.3 percent rate of growth far outpaces other Oregon counties, and its population increased by more than 6,000 between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, according to the state’s official population estimates from Portland State University.

Bend also leads the nation when it comes to telecommuting, according to U.S. Census estimates, and that could lead to a higher demand for passport services.

“I believe those types of people will be doing more travel than just the average citizen,” Blankenship said.

The U.S. Postal Service also provides passport services, but only during limited hours and requires appointments. The county clerk’s office provides the service daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. without requiring appointments.

“We saw a lot of passports last week with people and their children being out of work and school,” she said. “On Wednesday afternoons when school gets out, there’s a line in the office.”

Commission Chairman Phil Henderson said the demand for passport services fits with what he describes as a trend for overseas travel.

“It seems like this will continue until everyone gets a passport,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure to go overseas.”

—  Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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