by KATHRYN DENTATO
Hernando Sun Reporter
Jim Lipsey, Manager of Planning, Design and Construction and Brian Ragan, Director of Facilities, met with School Board members at the Aug. 27, 2019 workshop to present a recommendation to the Superintendent and School Board regarding the increase of school impact fees.
They began with a brief history lesson of the educational impact fees as managed by the Board of County Commissioners. The BOCC set the educational impact fee for single family homes at $4,266. In 2011 the economy was suffering and in an effort to improve growth, the BOCC suspended the educational impact fees. The impact fees were reinstated March 1, 2016, following a 2015 motion, but at $2,133.
The increase of impact fees are generally opposed by building industry professionals as the fee increase is ultimately the responsibility of the new homebuyer. Drastic fees could dissuade their customers from having a new home built. With the health of the homebuilding industry at a high right now, strategically it is a good time to introduce an impact fee increase.
In Hernando County, new construction home buyers also pay a road impact fee of $1269 for a residential home, effective since March 1, 2016. Other impact fees in effect cover fire, parks, EMS, jail, buildings and law and amount to $1312.
In 2013, a Tindale Oliver study recommended a school impact fee of $7,103 per residential home. The District’s projected educational needs were published in Tindale Oliver’s 2019 update. The educational impact fee for single family homes Tindale Oliver currently recommends is $6,352.
If the Board of County Commissioners agreed to that, new construction home buyers are looking at a total of $8933 in impact fees to build a single family home in the county.
Jim Lipsey provided information on the current and projected facility needs of the school district. He explained that school classrooms are considered permanent, and each seat for a student is called a station. While portables do allow schools to have additional classrooms and increase capacity, they are not considered permanent. Portables have a “lifespan” of 20 years of classroom use before they must be replaced.
Schools also maintain some seats in reserve for planned residential developments. Elementary schools would exceed capacity without the portables, he said. Middle and high schools are not at such a critical capacity level, but high schools are the second priority.
The Tindale Oliver report said more permanent classrooms will be needed for the additional students that the residential developments will bring. The anticipated growth rate averages 1% each year.
From information on Hernando County Building Department’s website, Lipsey showed the number of permits issued for single family homes beginning with 2005. The last few years there has been a significant increase over the permit requests in earlier years. A rough calculation is one student for the District per every three homes.
Hernando County’s growth has not slowed. Lipsey said during one week in March he was asked to complete a capacity analysis for the zoning department. The rezoning petitions for residential developments for that one week were for a total of 2,037 single family and multifamily units around the county. That equates to an additional 679 students potentially, if the zoning requests are approved.
Another aspect of growth on school capacity is the number of students in the Exceptional Student Education program (ESE). The more ESE students, the fewer the number of students per classroom. In the 2017-2018 school year there were 388 ESE students. By the end of 2018-2019 there were 416 ESE students.
The temporary solution has been portables, but they are aging. Some exceed the 20 year recommended use. Lipsey said there are district portables that are nearing 30 years of service, which means they require more maintenance. Rather than buying additional portables, the answer lies in construction of permanent classrooms.
To illustrate construction cost, Lipsey said Pasco County shared figures from schools and additions built in 2016 and 2017.
The school construction cost $21.9 million for one school and $23.3 million for another. One addition provided eight more classrooms (176 student stations) at $7.5 million. The other addition was for core space at a cost of $6.8 million. Yearly increases in construction costs are another factor the District must consider.
“The whole point of impact fees is that growth pays for itself,” Lipsey said. That is the definition of concurrency. Support systems develop as the community grows.
The District currently has $6.3 million of impact fee monies. If the BOCC had continued the educational impact fees at the $4,266 per single family home, the number of permits issued since 2005 would have generated approximately $54 million.
The suspension of educational impact fees and reinstatement at a lower rate resulted in only $31 million collected.
Looking forward, Tindale Oliver’s recommended educational impact fee of $6,352 could generate the money needed for the new additions or schools, if the BOCC agrees to the full recommended amount. Based on the number of permits issued in the last three years (4,692), Lipsey estimated that the District could have received $29.8 million, the cost of one elementary school or 3 additions. At the current rate and using the same number of permits for the example, only $10 million is generated over three years.
The committee recommends that Superintendent ask the School Board to:
– adopt Tindale Oliver’s report to assist with long range plans
– adopt the impact fee study
– request the BOCC increase the educational impact fees to $6,352, the amount Tindale Oliver states would begin to address the District’s need for permanent classrooms.
By consensus, the School Board agreed to the Planning & Growth Committee’s recommendations.
Lipsey said that to address immediate needs, additional classrooms could be built at multiple schools. They will hire an architect to develop plans for classrooms at Westside Elementary, J.D. Floyd Elementary, and Brooksville Elementary.
The schools have the land needed to build the additions, could handle the increased traffic, and are in areas with proposed residential growth. The Director of Transportation is also a committee member as student transportation is an essential planning factor.
Board members Gud Guadagnino and Jimmy Lodato would like to see plans for Ridge Manor. Expansion toward Orlando is expected and the I-75/HWY 50 area has large residential developments planned.
Lipsey said master plans for each individual school and then as a district is a goal. Superintendent John Stratton asked for Lipsey to produce a master plan to address the District’s immediate capacity needs as well as 5-,10-, and 15-year plans.