Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Education

Hernando School Board member takes commission to task for handling of impact fees

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board member Matt Foreman had some stern words for his counterparts in county government Tuesday over their apparent rejection of new educational impact fees.

Yes, that Matt Foreman. The one who has frequently and adamantly voiced his objection to the fees. The one who has consistently voted against them.

"I can tell you, as one board member, their recent action really had little suitable explanation, and it really doesn't feel like due consideration," Foreman said during Tuesday's School Board workshop.

So what gives?

While Foreman said he doesn't have a problem with the result, he objects to how county commissioners went about it.

"If it was the intention of certain members of the County Commission to decline reinstating the educational impact fee all along — which, quite frankly, that seems like the case — it was foolish … to help us finance the cost of the study," he said. "It's a waste of our money; it's a waste of their money.

On Feb. 11, four of five county commissioners signaled their opposition to a new school impact fee, citing the negative effect the onetime charge on new construction would have on home builders.

Commissioners voted to accept a new school impact fee study, which they had partially paid for, and then set a public hearing for March 11 to consider an ordinance that would keep school impact fees at zero at least through May 2015.

The study recommended a fee of nearly $7,000 for a single-family home.

Foreman found much of the process troubling.

He said the School Board had met previously with commissioners and told them the School Board wanted impact fees reinstated.

The response, Foreman said, was that the county couldn't consider anything until the school district had an updated study with the best possible information regarding what fee could be justified.

The School Board authorized the study, which cost $39,899. The County Commission covered $12,450 of the cost.

Chairman Wayne Dukes defended the commission's actions, reiterating his belief that restoring fees would have a negative impact on the construction of new homes in an already-depressed market.

"We were thinking in today," Dukes said. "They were thinking in long term."

He also defended the decision to pay for the study, then not to immediately implement the fees.

"The study was a good investment because it's current and it will be good for a while," he said. "We didn't say we're never going to (reinstate the educational impact fee)."

Foreman said he doesn't feel the commission's explanation at the Feb. 11 meeting was sufficient.

"I don't think they did us or the community the service they owe us to explain how they reached their decision," he said.

He said the commission put the School Board through a "song and dance" with no real intention of restoring the fees.

"That's what you did," he said, "and it's wrong."

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