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Staff seeks impact-fee direction

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:29 PM

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BROOKSVILLE -

Even if county commissioners approve to once again charge impact fees for new construction, it could be almost a year before fees are collected that would benefit the school district.

But before that matter is addressed, school board members will first have to determine whether they'll ask county commissioners to lift the moratorium on impact fees and again begin charging developers for new construction.

Bo Bavota, director of facilities for the school district, said hopefully that matter is ironed out next week during a workshop before they meet with county commissioners later this month.

"We've put together a lot of information for the school board to review so they can become aware of really what impact fees are and what the money can be used for," Bavota said. "One thing in particular is that the money can be used for debt service. So if the county commissioners decide not to charge impact fees, we'll have to pay that off using other funds — possibly from the general fund, which means we'll be taking money away from classrooms."

An impact fee is a one-time charge on new development to help pay for county roads, parks and other infrastructure. However, the funds also can be used for other purposes. For example, county commissioners pointed out last month that money garnered from the fees can be used for new books, computers and other equipment for libraries.

But another issue for school board members to consider, Bavota said, is that the school district is responsible for conducting a new impact fee study, which could cost between $60,000 and $70,000 and take six to nine months to complete.

County staff members are recommending not lifting the moratorium on impact fees for schools until that study is finished.

Bavota said one option is for school board members to ask commissioners to set school impact fee levels to 2005 levels until the study is complete and then revisit that amount at a later date.

"I think really what the county is looking for is just direction from the school board as to what they want to do," Bavota said. "I think they're very much willing to work with us."

Last November, school board members were taken aback by county commissioners' decision to suspend all impact fees. Initially, commissioners were looking to lower impact fees across the board to 1999 levels rather than the 2001 levels they had set a year prior.

Commissioners argued during that time they needed to do more to bolster the economy and were met with applause from a crowd of builders and Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce members in the audience.

That same day, school board members said they were not properly notified about the county's intentions or invited to attend meetings and wondered if they were left intentionally out of the loop.

Last month, school board members gave mixed reactions to the idea of the county again charging impact fees while commissioners gave no indication as to whether they supported bringing back the fees during their Sept. 25 meeting.

Meanwhile, school board members are slated to discuss the matter during their 2 p.m. workshop at the board office. They will then meet at 9 a.m. Oct. 30 at the courthouse with commissioners during a joint workshop on the matter.

More public meetings will be scheduled in November for county commissioners to discuss and vote on bringing back the impact fees.


jschmucker@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5271

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