As more rooftops pop up in Pasco County, more and more students living under those rooftops will take seats in crowded classrooms. While new residential construction is good for the county’s prosperity, it also is setting up a dilemma for Pasco County Schools.
The big question: Where will the district find money to build schools to keep up with demand over the next 10 years?
The apparent answer from the district’s school board is an increase in school impact fees applied to construction for new housing.
A 10-member committee, appointed by the Pasco County commissioners, will grapple with the issue and make recommendations.
County commissioners approved the creation of a School Infrastructure Funding Committee at their Jan. 10 meeting in Dade City.
Five members will be developer/builder representatives and five will be citizen/parent representatives. No employees of the county or the school board can serve on the committee, though they can serve as staff members to the committee.
Each county commissioner will appoint one person from each category. However, county commissioners plan to consult with school board members about the citizen/parent selections.
Based on a study, the school board is seeking to increase impact fees on new homes from $4,828 to $9,174 for single-family detached; from $1,740 to $3,693 for single-family attached; from $2,843 to $5,634 for mobile homes; and from $1,855 to $5,382 for multi-family.
Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent for Pasco County Schools, said the study lays out what the future holds for the school district’s growth and its financial needs.
“We think it can be legitimately defended,” Gadd said, of the proposed fee increases.
The study’s analysis completed by Maryland-based consulting firm, Tischler Bise, determined that school enrollment within five years will increase by more than 5,200 students. In 10 years, it predicts that nearly 10,500 new students will enroll.
The school district’s building plans include two new schools opening in fall, and another four schools that will be built within the next 10 years. The total cost is estimated at $196 million, and will add about 6,500 more classroom seats.
The authority to increase impact fees belongs to the commission, not the school board. The fees are assessed against builders for each new home, excluding 55 and older communities.
Impact fees are expected to pay for new growth as opposed to putting the burden on residents of existing homes.
Committee appointments are expected by Feb. 7.
County officials anticipate meetings, workshops and public hearings will be held over the next eight to 12 months.
School officials want a faster timetable.
“We’d like to be done in four to five months,” Gadd said.
Published January 18, 2017