School district opposed to lowering impact fees
MONROE - The Monroe School Board announced at its Oct. 8 board meeting that it is “adamantly opposed” to a city proposal to reduce the amount collected for school impact fees.
The fees are the only time new development partially contributes to offset the cost that growth has on schools, and “efforts to encourage prosperity in our community should look at changing school mitigation fees as the very last option,” according to a letter the school board sent to the city.
The letter was addressed to Mayor Robert Zimmerman, the City Council and the planning commission.
The letter notes a community’s schools play a critical role in a family’s decision to move somewhere.
The city, led by economic development manager Jeff Sax, is pushing the City Council to increase the discount given to housing developers from 25 percent to 50 percent. Sax says this will encourage residential development.
The school board says a reduction will put the district further behind in providing adequate learning space and cost taxpayers more. About $1 million in school impact fees was used to reduce the cost to taxpayers when the district built Fryelands Elementary in 2005, the letter says.
The proposal will be discussed at a planning commission meeting Monday, Oct. 15 (after press time). The city announced last week that a quorum of City Council members may be at that meeting. The planning commission is expected to make a recommendation that night. The City Council also will hold a public hearing and is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday, Nov. 6.
When the proposal to reduce the fees was first brought up this fall, district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said the board gathered on Sept. 10 to look at the facts and analyze how the change would affect the schools before making an official statement in opposition or support of the proposal.
The board looked at the rate of growth within the district and saw that the current amount of mitigation fees collected was barely enough as it was.
“Given the pace at which the city is considering this change (in impact fees), we don’t see a way this could be a benefit to the schools,” O’Neil said.
Monroe currently has 34 portables that students use on a daily basis. Building those temporary structures, board president Tom MacIntyre said, already consumes most of the mitigation fees.
“This leaves almost no money,” MacIntyre said.
“If you don’t have enough mitigation fees, you pull it out of your general fund. We need those funds to work on improving education for our students,” he said.
Developers pay a school impact mitigation fee based on the type of housing unit they plan to build, which then goes to the Monroe School District. The fee is intended to offset some of the impact the population increase will have on schools.
The money can only be used to buy land, build permanent structures or portables to house students. And if the amount of mitigation fees collected by the city is reduced and these structures aren’t fully funded by them, Superintendent Ken Hoover said it forces the district to dip into its general fund, hurting the quality of education in the long run.
The district’s general fund buys books, pays for teachers, and “all the things that go into making up a school day for a child,” O’Neil said.
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