Home National Weather Carroll Board of County Commissioners votes to keep school impact fees at zero – Baltimore Sun

Carroll Board of County Commissioners votes to keep school impact fees at zero – Baltimore Sun

by DrewLUD

Developers and new homebuyers in Carroll County have been granted another reprieve from paying impact fees when constructing and purchasing a new home.

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously at its meeting on Thursday not to impose school impact fees, thereby keeping them at zero dollars.

“If another board wants to put impact fees in, they can do that at any time,” said Commissioner Dennis Frazier, who represents District 3, which encompasses Westminster City and the surrounding area. “I don’t see a reason to do this.”

A school impact fee is a payment imposed by the county on developers when they build a new home in a development. Developers typically pass those fees on to the homebuyer.

The money is intended to pay for the construction of new schools to accommodate the additional students who are brought into the school system as new housing is built.

“For a number of years now the school impact fee has been set to zero dollars,” said Ted Zaleski, Carroll County’s director of management and budget. “The reason that it has been that way is because we no longer had projects happening, school construction projects that were qualified for the use of impact fees.

“And sometimes people will say, ‘Well you’re going to need them someday, why wouldn’t you keep collecting it so you have it,’” he said. “The problem is court cases surrounding impact fees have led to a general thinking that you cannot accumulate the money indefinitely. There has to be a plan to spend it.”

In 2012, the commissioners stopped charging developers impact fees, citing a decline in school enrollment.

School impact fee legislation in Carroll County called for a payment of around $6,000 for a newly constructed home.

“It was a significant revenue source,” Zaleski said.

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If the county enacted school impact legislation, it would have to use the funding.

“There’s nothing that says this specifically, but six years has been used as kind of a reasonable time frame to say, ‘You can keep it for about six years, but if you don’t have a plan then, then you need to return it,’” Zaleski said. “Now administratively, returning impact fees to people that paid [them] would be a real pain, so if you believe you’re in that situation then it makes sense just not to collect them in the first place. We’re still in that situation, so we’re here today to suggest to you that you extend this again at zero dollars.”

Impact fee money cannot be used to improve schools that are not affected by enrollment growth.

“Impact fees are a very restrictive revenue,” Zaleski said. “There’s a thin line on what you can do. … All that said, I don’t believe our situation is fundamentally changed. I think we should extend this. How long we extend it is up to you and does not commit you to anything.”

County Commissioner Eric Bouchat, who represents District 4, which includes the southwestern portion of Carroll County, questioned whether it would be wise to extend the zero-fee policy to the next budget deliberations, leaving the next board to make a decision on the issue.

Zaleski said the commissioners could tie a decision to the next budget discussions, but since the those deliberations extend over several months, he was not sure what date to pick for discussion and approval.

“Then again, whatever date we pick, it’s always in the board’s hands to bring it back up again another time,” he said.

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Source: Baltimore Sun