Sunday, February 25, 2018
Education

Hernando School Board fails to reach consensus on restoration of impact fees

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has missed out on roughly $2.2 million while impact fees were reduced, then suspended in recent years, according to a presentation during Tuesday's School Board workshop.

That includes more than a $1 million between October 2012 and September 2013, a period that has seen an uptick in home building, said district facilities director Bo Bavota.

"It looks like the trend is starting to pick up," Bavota said. "We're starting to see more homes being built."

But don't expect fee revenue to start flowing again any time soon.

In January, Hernando County commissioners extended the moratorium on school impact fees, keeping them at zero until November. Commissioners are scheduled to reconsider the moratorium at their meeting Oct. 8 — and whether to extend it, eliminate it or do something in between.

At the School Board workshop, members could not reach a consensus on what recommendation to send the commission, which sets the levels of impact fees — one-time levies on new construction to help cover the cost of infrastructure needed to support growth.

Opinions, as they have in the past, ran the gamut.

Board member Dianne Bonfield, who spoke out most adamantly in favor of restoring impact fees.

"We need that money — badly," Bonfield said. "I would like to implore them to allow us to collect fees."

On the other end was board Chairman Matt Foreman.

"Quite frankly, I don't think the educational impact fee is applied equitably," Foreman said. "The truth is that supporting impact fees in some ways feels like a cop out. If you're going to take the money from somebody, you should just go ahead and you should vote for a millage increase (for the property tax rate). What you're doing is you're going after a small group of people who are putting money into industry and you're taking it from them."

The home-building industry and related businesses have supported the suspension of impact fees — for schools as well as other purposes — during the economic downturn. The County Commission has restored impact fees for such purposes as parks and libraries; the largest levy, for transportation, will be restored next year.

Board members Gus Guadagnino and John Sweeney said they needed to see the district's impact fee study before making any decisions. The study is nearly complete, but won't be done in time for the Oct. 8 County Commission meeting, Bavota said.

Sweeney was disappointed by that, saying the board has had a responsibility for quite some time to get the study done.

"To me, if we don't get it done and get it to them in enough time where they can look at it, that's our bad. That's our fault," he said. "We need to get them the study."

When the board approved the study in early February at a cost of $39,899, they were told it should take about five months.

Bavota said that, while not complete, the study does indicate the board would be justified in collecting fees.

Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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