Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

Pasco school district leaders consider options to Dade City stormwater fee

DADE CITY — The Pasco County School District and the Dade City government could be headed for a showdown over newly established stormwater utility fees.

City officials have moved to impose the fees on all property owners to help pay for improvements to runoff control. The cost for the five schools within the city — Pasco Elementary, Cox Elementary, Pasco Middle, Pasco High and Moore-Mickens Education Center — would come to about $25,000 a year, city manager Billy Poe said.

"I still have to fine tune," Poe said. "I believe that number is going to come down."

All the way to zero, if the district decides to fight the charge, as many other Florida school boards have done over the years.

The Pinellas School Board has stopped paying stormwater fees to cities, winning a 2009 lawsuit in which Clearwater officials sought to force the payments. The Alachua School Board cut a deal with the city of Gainesville in 2012 after years of suits and mediation.

The city of Ocala sued the Marion School Board in late 2013 to try to collect stormwater fees that the district dropped two years earlier. A lawyer for the school system stated in an affidavit that 48 of Florida's 67 districts do not pay the fees.

"My initial thought is, we're exempt from those assessment fees," Pasco School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said. "I don't think the district should roll over on this. We shouldn't assume we have to pay the fee just because they ask us to pay it."

The district does not pay stormwater fees assessed by the County Commission.

Assistant superintendent Ray Gadd served on the committee that set those costs, and he recalled the district's position that it was not required under law to pay. He said it makes no sense to shift the financial responsibility from one government entity to another.

Rather than get involved in a lawsuit with the county, Gadd said, the district instead agreed to provide student education about wetlands protection, stormwater runoff, the federal Clean Water Act and related topics.

Dade City's request for money from the county had Gadd and his staff thinking the same way.

"My inclination is that I don't like the idea," he said. "But we haven't really decided how we're going to respond yet."

Construction services director John Petrashek noted in an email to Gadd and others that the district once looked into donating land to Dade City for stormwater retention. In exchange, the city would not seek to collect any future fee from the district.

That idea never moved forward. But Gadd said it might be an option for the future.

Poe said he would be willing to consider alternatives to the fee, which is set to be collected beginning in November.

The decision will have to come from the School Board. Vice chairman Steve Luikart said he doesn't want to set a precedent.

If the district isn't required to pay, he said, it shouldn't.

"If we open up to Dade City, then we're going to be opening ourselves to Zephyrhills, New Port Richey, Port Richey and any other incorporated area that wants to collect," Luikart said. "I don't understand why we would want to go in that direction."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, cornbread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored...
Published: 02/22/18
Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

With high school students from Parkland in the Capitol this week advocating for gun control, the bill that would have allowed superintendents and principals to designate trained employees who can carry concealed weapons at school didn’t get heard as ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Published: 02/21/18
School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to have been in line for a sizable inheritance. He’ll never get to spend it — except perhaps on defense attorneys.The amount could be enough to compel a judge to order him to hire a private lawyer, rather ...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school. The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and t...
Published: 02/21/18
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Published: 02/20/18
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Published: 02/20/18
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Published: 02/20/18
Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Schools nationwide are on heightened alert in the wake of last week’s fatal shootings in Broward County, and in the Tampa area, that means official warnings about social media posts and more calls for police action.Two Tampa boys, one 15 and one 16, ...
Published: 02/20/18