Impact fee cuts will hurt schools
On Tuesday afternoon, April 19, at the government center in New Port Richey, the Pasco County Commission will vote on reducing impact fees. This includes impact fees collected by the county but also those collected for the Pasco County School Board specifically to pay for schools built for growth.
The Pasco County School Board is elected by the voters and given, among many, the task of paying for the schools built to handle the expansive growth we all watched explode from the mid 1990s until 2006. While the School Board must find a way to pay for the bonds it is also facing the County Commission, which, with strong pressure from builders and developers, wants to cut the school impact fee in half.
I held my first town hall meeting last week at Seven Springs Middle and we had more than 500 parents, teachers, students and taxpayers show up. Everyone is acutely concerned about the massive budget deficit we all face for the coming school year. They came with ideas and a voice and I am extremely proud of all who attended.
The School Board passed a unanimous resolution that asked the commission not to further risk our schools and even our bond rating by cutting the school impact fees. It is revenue that helps pay for bond debts on schools built to accommodate new growth. Without that amount the school district might be forced to tap into general operating funds to cover the costs. That would mean less for school programs and a further reduction in school jobs.
Commission members stated that the move to cut school impact fees was a gamble but felt that they had to try something. I do not believe that any gamble that affects the quality of our children's education is worth the possible reward.
We have yet to hear much from the county staff as this move is strictly a political move by the building industry in Pasco County. I do not believe the builders had the best interest of children's education in mind when they made this proposal. These same people are also cherry picking our budget with their limited knowledge of educational state statutes and long-range planning that occurs to insure our children receive a quality education now and in the future.
The bottom line is we are taking a huge gamble and the chance that it will have the desired impact is questionable. The claim that the several thousand dollars in school impact fees could easily be the difference to make them competitive is very debatable. Every day we put foreclosure after foreclosure and short sale after short sale on the market and the prices keep going down. Builders can't compete when resales, which normally run about 92 to 97 percent of the price of new construction, are today running at or near 50 to 60 percent of the cost of new.
We can't lose sight of the fact that with more than 10,000 vacant housing units in Pasco County right now we do not need more.
We must get rid of the foreclosures and end short sales before our home prices and the tax base can begin to heal.
The bottom line is that the Pasco County Commissioners have proposed a measure that would cut school impact fees in half, risk teacher jobs in the classroom and hurt our children. All for the promise of a dramatic increase in home-building that is both unlikely and unneeded.
On April 19, I encourage every parent, business person, retiree and taxpayer to attend the commission meeting, which begins at 1:30 p.m. It is imperative that commissioners know that further cuts to our education system are not acceptable. The builders got the attention of commissioners by showing up in mass numbers.
Now is the time to show up in support of our students, our many excellent teachers and support personnel and the future of our school system.
Cynthia Armstrong, Pasco School Board member, District 3
Who pays impact fees? Consumers
I have read all the letters supporting the current impact fees and have to conclude that it is not understood what impact fees can and can't do.
They can help build new schools but cannot be used to pay for upkeep, staffing, or maintenance.
They were needed when growth was rampant, but they are useless when the population base is flat or shrinking. They are not paid by rich developers but are passed on as a line item cost to consumers. They reduce property value and discourage companies to create jobs.
If your goal is no further growth, employment and reduced property values, please continue your support of this wolf in sheep's clothing.
Keith Ostermann, Zephyrhills
Impact fee vote sabotages schools
I've just got to run for a Pasco County commissioner seat. I can't be any more ignorant than the ones serving at this time. I am referencing the vote to cut the builders impact fees.
With all the stupidity going on in Tallahassee with the dreaded Scott, our local politicians come up with their own "dunce caps" to sabotage our schools. I have no political experience, but I like to think I have some life and practical experience. Cut impact fees to build more empty homes? Don't we have too many now? What are these commissioners thinking? Certainly not of their constituents.
I should take a shot, "but not in the dark," at being a commissioner.
Jerry Kelly, New Port Richey