Thursday, February 22, 2018
Education

Hernando School Board accepts impact fee study, forwards resolution to commission

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board has paved the way for the county to once again collect educational impact fees.

But it didn't come without some kicking and screaming, and with one builder warning that reinstating the fees would hurt the local home-building industry.

In a process that has spanned months, the School Board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to adopt the findings of a recent educational impact fee study and send a resolution to the Hernando County Commission, asking commissioners to revise the fees accordingly.

Under the new fee schedule, the county would charge a one-time fee of $6,988 on new single-family homes.

Before that can happen, though, the county would first need to set up public hearings. Commissioners then would have to vote on whether to adopt the fees — and at what amount.

Impact fees — one-time levies on new construction — are used to pay for the cost of growth.

The commission, after reducing or suspending impact fees in recent years, has voted to restore all of them except for the education fee. It has been waiting on a new study to show what dollar amount could be justified.

School Board member Dianne Bonfield spoke forcefully in favor of reinstating the educational fees.

She said she remembers, not all that long ago, when Spring Hill Elementary was bursting at the seams.

"We never want to see that again," she said.

"I think this is … one of the most important decisions we have to make," she said. "I would like to see us send on to the commission the fact that we would like to see as much money as the report says we can collect."

In the next 10 years, the district expects it will need to spend $30 million for school building or expansion projects, $10 million for new technology and $110 million for debt service payments, all of which can be paid with impact fees.

Board members John Sweeney and Cynthia Moore also supported the measure.

Board Vice Chairman Gus Guadagnino, however, did not believe impact fees are a good idea.

"I think we're living in an entirely different world than we lived in the '80s, '90s and even the 2000s," Guadagnino said. "I can tell you that Hernando County does not have the reputation it had in those flourishing years.

"I think we need to do things to entice people to come here."

He said he thinks the nearly $7,000 fee on a single-family home is too much of a burden. He also believes the district's enrollment projections are too high.

Guadagnino's vote came as a bit of a surprise.

He previously had supported funding the impact fee study, and he gave tentative approval during an Oct. 15 board workshop to send the resolution to Hernando commissioners.

Guadagnino said he didn't change his mind; he just didn't previously have enough information to come to a concrete conclusion.

Board Chairman Matt Foreman cast the other dissenting vote. He has long voiced his opposition to impact fees.

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