BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County should resume collecting education impact fees to help offset future growth of the school district, a majority of Hernando School Board members said Tuesday.
Now they will share that consensus — and likely a bevy of other concerns and issues — in a joint meeting later this month with the Hernando County Commission.
The fate of the fees, paid on new construction to help offset the cost of capital improvements to meet growth demands, ultimately rests with the commission. The School Board is only able to make recommendations.
At an afternoon workshop, School Board chairwoman Cynthia Moore and members Dianne Bonfield and James Yant said they supported collecting fees at the 2005 rate while a new study is conducted to update the figures based on current costs and needs.
"I think the board of education, in general, has dealt very judiciously with the county," Bonfield said. "Years ago, it was just good enough to drag in another portable. Even in the cement and mortar buildings, you had many years of 46 kids in the classroom in Spring Hill Elementary with two teachers. …We can't do that anymore. We want better for our kids."
At issue is whether the Hernando County Commission should reinstate impact fees, which have been suspended or discounted for the past three years in an effort to kick-start a stagnant building industry.
The moratorium on impact fees ends Nov. 15 if the commission takes no action.
The county has lost roughly $5.2 million in revenue over the past three years. The school district estimates it accounts for about $1 million of that loss.
If the county returns to the 2005 rate for the education impact fee, the district would receive $4,266 for new detached, single-family homes.
Not all board members were in agreement on reverting to the 2005 fees. After listening to the School Board attorney's advice that impact fees need to be based on the best data available, board member Matt Foreman said, "It's probably wise to extend the moratorium at least until (a new) study gets done."
The School Board is scheduled to meet with the County Commission on Oct. 30 to discuss the fees.
It appears there is quite a lot of ground to close between the two parties.
At a County Commission meeting in late September, the county's land service director, Ron Pianta, explained to commissioners a new fee schedule based on current costs and needs would need to be implemented to make any fees justifiable.
Commissioner Dave Russell said "unless we have these studies, we have nothing to move forward on."
Also, there's some residual bad blood between the School Board and the commission on the collection of impact fees.
School Board members were critical of the commission's decision to suspend impact fees for one year in November 2011. The district said it was caught off guard and not given an opportunity to provide input.
It had estimated it would collect $300,000 that budget year from the fees.
At a recent School Board workshop, Bonfield said she feels the school system has been very understanding of the county's position over the years.
"If we want to see an increase in our commitment to the quality of education we have in Hernando County, it has to be a give and a take," she said. "To me, the school system has given a lot. I really need to see that come back in some kind of return."
Staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.