A committee appointed by the Pasco County Commission to suggest ways to boost funding for Pasco County school construction has recommended a hike in school impact fees.
The committee stopped short of initially suggesting the full amount recommended by a consultant hired by Pasco County Schools.
However, the committee said the full amount of the increase should be approved, if the Pasco County School Board votes to put at least a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the 2018 ballot so voters can decide the issue.
In other words, the recommendation calls for raising the impact fee for a single-family detached house to $7,175 immediately, then up to $9,028, when the school board approves putting the sales tax increase on the 2018 ballot. If the sales tax is approved by voters, the impact fee would drop to $8,101. Impact fee rates would be increased by varying amounts for other types of new residential construction.
Jennifer Motsinger, the committee members who made the motion, noted that the higher fee is not tied to voters approving the higher sales tax.
“It’s not tied to success. It’s only tied to it getting to referendum. It gives us the teeth that we need, in order to move forward,” said Motsinger, who called for that approach during an April 26 meeting of the infrastructure funding committee.
The committee approved Motsinger’s motion 7-3 during the meeting at Rasmussen College in Land O’ Lakes.
Stewart Gibbons, the committee’s chairman, said using this approach provides a greater incentive for the school board to seek the sales tax as an additional source of revenue.
Scott Sheridan, another committee member, said the committee needs to make it “emphatically clear” that other sources of revenue, besides impact fees, are needed to address the school district’s funding problem.
Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent of Pasco County Schools, agreed with committee members that the impact fee increase is not the total solution.
“The impact fee will not be a panacea. It will not solve all of our problems,” Gadd said.
Parents in the audience said the funding shortage must be solved.
“We are leaving our schools in a position, in Pasco County, of doing damage control. We are in a financial crisis. Our public schools are suffering,” said Heide Janshon, who lives in the Seven Springs area. “Please, as a parent, I am begging you to raise the impact fees,” she said.
“In all honesty, the impact fees are the source of revenue that we have that must be raised, in order to keep up with the building,” Janshon said. “Seven Springs Middle School, the capacity is 1,400, somewhere in that vicinity. We will, by the middle of next school year, have 1,800 students. Mitchell High School, is going to be in excess of probably 2,400.”
Claudine Judge, of Seven Oaks, said “nothing is keeping up with the development. The roads aren’t keeping up. The schools aren’t keeping up.
“This area, in the last four years, it’s insane the amount of housing that’s going in.
“We were part of a very nasty school board rezoning process, that was not the fault of the school board, but the school board bore the brunt of it,” Judge said.
Denise Nicholas, of Florida PTA, told committee members: “Ten-period days, overcrowding of schools, brand-new schools opening overcrowded — it’s not good for our kids. We need to fully fund our schools. Pasco County is in an absolute financial crisis. We need these impact fees. Please vote to increase them.”
The committee’s recommendation was scheduled to be discussed in a May 2 workshop of the Pasco County Commission in New Port Richey — after The Laker/Lutz News went to press.
The County Commission — not the school board — has jurisdiction over school impact fees.
If the Pasco County Commission agrees with the committee’s recommendation, it will go the county’s Development Review Committee for a recommendation and then come back to the County Commission for two public hearings before the new impact fees can be adopted.
Published May 3, 2017