Lake County, FL - Feb. 27, 2012
An Important Decision Regarding Approval or Waiver of School Impact Fees will be discussed at the Lake County School District meeting on Monday.
On Monday, the 27th, at a 2:15 pm “Special Meeting”, the School board will vote on impact fee recommendations (see the attached agenda) to be sent to the Lake County Board, and the next day, the 28th, the Lake County Board will decide whether to continue an existing waiver, or approve impact fees with or without the information sent by the School Board. You can get more details on the agenda at the School Board “Board Docs” section HERE, and the Lake County Board meetings page HERE.
This has been an ongoing issue with contention between Board members of the School District who would not vote on a recommended impact fee schedule to be sent to the County Board. The County Board is the final approver of the School Impact Fee schedule. Currently, a 15 month waiver passed by the County Board will expire at the end of March.
The School Board sent a required consultant’s study to the County Board a few months ago, but without any vote recommendations whether the full fees or partial fees (which was done previously) should be charged, or the waiver should be extended another year.
The problem is that Members on both Boards have sold out to the Builder’s organizations and the Right Side of the Lake Blog, and believe that waiving impact fees to builders (both residential and commercial) was more important than maintaining a revenue source for the Schools. The School staff estimates that the 15 month waiver cost them about $6-million in revenue, and they need the funds for other capital projects that have been deferred. (Impact fees can only be spent on capital projects and not maintenance, salaries, supplies, etc.). I will let the school staff at the meeting describe exactly what the funds can be used for, but I do know they have a backlog of capital projects, which could include rebuilding some 50 year old schools (?). It would be much simpler if the funds could be spent for any purpose like maintenance, but stupid Florida and local laws are too restrictive on how funds from specific sources can be spent (which is another major problem).
County Board members have complained that the School Board needs to go on the record with a formal vote on their recommendation, rather than just saying “a consensus is there is no consensus”.
So, as the attached agenda says, they will VOTE on a recommended impact fee rate or waiver on Monday, and the Lake County Board will then use that information to make the final decision on the School impact fee rates, or waive it again. My belief is there are too many Board members in the pocket of the Homebuilders and Developers, and when they vote to take revenues away from schools to subsidize builders (i.e. builder welfare), then they should have a plan to REPLACE that revenue stream with another source, and there is no such plan. The builders and their Board supporters only talk about reducing impact fees without an alternative replacement of the revenues for the Schools.
One way would be to continue the recommended school impact fees, reduced to 64% of the consultant’s recommendations until another revenue source is activated to replace the impact fee revenues.
And, before making a decision, the County Board should get a full presentation from the School District staff and Board on the way schools are financed so they understand the full picture. This should be scheduled for the Lake County Board meeting on the 28th. They should NOT delay or dilute the process by forwarding the issue to the County CFAC committee because information may get lost or filtered through that committee, or any summary report might be poorly written and exclude important factors.
Thus, if you see any School Board members refuse to approve impact fees, even at a discount, then you know they are avoiding their Board responsibility to ensure continued school funding in order to make a political decision. This decision should be made whether you think the schools are efficient or not – their revenues are decreasing from many sources, and impact fees should not be dropped without a replacement revenue source.
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