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Pasco superintendent targets new east side middle school in four years, if impact fees approved

New school construction is limited in Pasco County by available funding, which the school district is trying to expand.

Times file photo

New school construction is limited in Pasco County by available funding, which the school district is trying to expand.

5

January

Four years. Seven years. Maybe longer.

The debate over how long it will take for the Pasco County school district to build a new middle school in Wesley Chapel has taken a central role in the battle over middle and high school attendance boundary revisions proposed for the area.

One line of reasoning suggests that residents of the Seven Oaks subdivision should not be rezoned for 2017-18, because their children could wind up attending as many as four campuses for their middle and high grades. The counter-argument goes that if the district takes seven years to construct a new middle school, none of the students currently in middle or high school would be affected by a future boundary change.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said Thursday that his plan -- which drives his rationale to leave Seven Oaks in its current feeder pattern for now -- is to have that new middle school built on Old Pasco Road within four years, not seven as has been put forth by even some on his staff. At that time, the Seven Oaks community would transfer into that new Cypress Creek middle and high school zone, he said.

But his plan comes with a critical caveat.

"If we are successful with the impact fee, our goal is to have Cypress Creek Middle School built in four years," Browning said.

The School Board has requested a near doubling of the fee assessed on new home construction, to almost $10,000, to support new schools. But the board doesn't get to decide. The County Commission does.

And so far, commissioners have not committed to any action, even with growing resident support and a pretty quiet builders community (the usual source of opposition). The commission is set to consider creating a "School Infrastructure Funding Committee" when it meets Tuesday, to kick off the review process.

"I don't want it drawn out," Browning said of the time frame leading to a vote on the fees. "Every day we draw it out is a lost opportunity to collect an impact fee to build new schools."

Commissioners have not indicated how long they will take, though, and the outcome is not guaranteed. Some parents have said the uncertainty should lead the school district to act conservatively in rezoning, rather than crossing its fingers and hoping for the best.

The board will hold another public hearing on the attendance zones Jan. 17, at which time it is expected to vote. So far, no changes to the superintendent's recommendations have been presented.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2017 12:40pm]

    

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