Pasco County commissioners say they'll back 92 percent school impact fee hike
They couldn't vote because the proposal had changed enough to warrant another public hearing.
But Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday signaled their strong support for a compromise on school impact fees crafted over the past several days by school district officials and area home builders.
The accord, which would increase the fee on a newly built home by 92 percent, drew praise from the entire commission, including some members who had been hesitant to back anything that builders opposed.
"I think we've come to a great agreement here. It's the right thing," commission vice chairman Mike Wells Jr. said.
Despite postponing a final vote to Aug. 15, the commission took comment from members of the public for about 30 minutes. Everyone spoke in favor of higher impact fees, with several urging commissioners to go even higher than the deal that had been struck.
Wesley Chapel parent Doug Wood suggested it would be unfair to continue to allow children and teachers to work in packed schools, with the school district unable to build new ones, simply because home builders want to add more new homes and not cover the costs of the aftermath.
"Please vote for our kids," county PTA president Denise Nicholas encouraged the commission, echoing similar concerns.
Even builders who spoke out said they wanted to see the school district able to accommodate enrollment growth brought about by new homes. Connerton developer Stew Gibbons called the agreement coming to the commission "fair" and "reasonable."
Commissioners gave their staff no instructions to rewrite the agreement, which would increase the fee by $2,300 on Jan. 1, 2018, followed by $600 increases on Jan. 1 of the next two years. The BOCC will hold another public hearing on Aug. 15 before its final vote, which now appears a formality.
Commissioner Jack Mariano observed that the impact fee hike still will leave the school system with a gap between projected revenue and projected need. He suggested the community must come together to seek additional resources to help resolve the situation.
"It gets us in the right direction," Mariano said, "but it's not going to get us all the way there."
School Board members already have begun discussing other methods to raise money for capital needs.
Related coverage: Pasco commission moves toward increase in impact fee for schools