By B.C. Manion
Pasco County School Board members are pleased by the Pasco County Commission’s decision to leave school impact fees intact.
The county commission voted 3-2 on April 19 to retain the fees, rather than cutting them temporarily in an effort to spur the local economy and create jobs.
County commissioners had proposed slashing the fees by 50 percent, a move that could have resulted in a loss of an estimated $4.5 million in revenues for the district’s capital fund. While that money can’t be spent for day-to-day operations, district officials were concerned that money from the operating budget might be necessary to repay bonds if the capital funds fell short.
The reduced fees would have been effective from March 1, 2011 to Jan. 31, 2012, but commissioners decided not to cut the fees. School impact fees remain at $4,800 per home in Pasco County.
“I was very relieved,” said Joanne Hurley, chairwoman of the Pasco County School Board.
In a year when the school district’s federal funding has been reduced and its state funding is expected to be reduced by about 7 percent, a local cut would have added to the district’s budget challenges, Hurley said. In a year like this year, “every penny counts,” Hurley added.
Board member Steve Luikart characterized the county commission’s action as “definitely a pleasant surprise.”
He thinks that county commissioners were swayed by public support for schools and perhaps additional analysis of the numbers.
Summer Romagnoli, spokeswoman for the school district said, “we are very pleased” by the county commission’s vote. “We’re very grateful for the parents and the community members who took time” to express support for the school district, she said.
School board member Alison Crumbley put it like this: “I’m glad that’s over. I want to move forward into collaborative efforts with the county.”
While the impact fees debate is over, the district still must find ways to cut an estimated $60 million from its budget.
School board members are expected to decide how the district will reduce its costs by the end of May, Romagnoli said.
Regardless of what they cut, district officials have said layoffs are likely unavoidable. More than 80 percent of the district’s operating budget is made up of salaries and benefits.
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