Are Impact Fees Appropriate for Redevelopment Areas/Projects?
Chairman Dr. Murray opened the floor for discussion pertaining to this topic.
Commissioner Fisher had concerns and asked Mr. Scott to give an example as he felt it would be worthwhile for all parties. Mr. Scott discussed a circumstance in 2010 where there was a 44 unit complex called Inspiration Village, which was demolished and redeveloped into 9 single family attached units (constructed by Habitat for Humanity, funded by Hud dollars). He explained that the ordinance gives them the ability to reduce Impact Fees for affordable housing units but does not give the authority to waive them. Commissioner Fisher requested support from the School Board in looking into the ordinance.
Ms. Kneessy asked about an email that was received by Dane Theodore when Impact Fees were waived. She stated that it was her understanding that an agreement was established and there were no Impact Fees for that development. Dr. Binggeli answered that on this particular matter it was reported that the County submitted a proposal to waive the fees and the School Board refused, which is unfortunate as it is untrue. He explained that an email was received requesting a waiver for this specific case and Mr. Theodore responded that the School Board would be in agreement. Dr. Binggeli stated that it was the County’s decision to not waive the fees as it is not allowed per the ordinance.
Mr. Scott stated that as we move forward with similar redevelopment projects and want to consider waiving the fees, the ordinance does provide handcuffs. Commissioner Fisher asked in areas that you want to consider redevelopment, should our ordinance be stopping that. Dr. Murray stated that this is the issue of today and posed that we move forward.
Where Student Populations are Declining, are Impact Fees Necessary?
Chairman Dr. Murray opened the floor for discussion pertaining to this topic.
Mr. Ziegler stated that from a community/economic point of view, he understands that if we eliminate Impact Fees builders would be happy and it would encourage redevelopment, but he also understands that on the North part of the County there are approximately 3,000 vacant homes. He asked if you eliminate Impact Fees and stimulated development, what does that do to the property values on the existing homes. Mr. Ziegler also stated that the Impact Fees are a drop in the bucket of our overall expenses on the development on a facility, so how long do we have to collect fees to be able to jump start a project. He expressed that there is more information that needs to be brought to the table to help make decisions as we move forward.
Dr. Murray gave the floor to Mr. Theodore to explain the two philosophical foundations for Impact Fees. Mr. Theodore referenced the first methodology which was a consumption based study done by Tim Del Oliver which looked at our capital needs to serve a student, the student’s generated by a house (county-wide average) and what revenues we would receive from all sources. He stated that on the average, every new home in Brevard County generates a capital need that we have to fulfill as a School District and the revenues that we are receiving don’t cover that need; therefore, every new home generates a gap that can be filled by Impact Fees. Mr. Theodore then referenced the second methodology which is a needs based, meaning that you look at the need in an area. He stated that typically in times of high growth you are widely overcharging specific areas and not charging low growth areas enough and as those dynamics change you have to redo the study. Mr. Theodore explained that most School Districts are a proponent of the consumption based which spreads the general impact over the entire county. He stated that we serve students everywhere and it would be unfair to charge specific areas more Impact Fees over areas that are not paying anything.
Commissioner Nelson stated that one observation he has seen is in the Merritt Island area where there are a lot of transition as the Space Race Engineers are aging out, but the re-sales are becoming younger. He asked Mr. Theodore if this specific issue is looked at and how it factors in as he hears that we are losing population yet he sees more children throughout neighborhoods. Mr. Theodore explained the process that the district uses to establish student projections.
Commission Fisher asked if there were future school closures on the table and if so, should we be collecting Impact Fees. If Impact Fees were still collected, how much is already allocated to debt and how much would be new money not being used for debt. Dr. Binggeli stated that there are no identified school closures at this point and as we always have, we will continue to monitor our enrollment and use our capacity as efficiently as we can. Dr. Murray commented that our head count in September is indeed a headcount which doesn't lie; therefore, she can’t think of a more accurate way to determine our capacity needs and reporting.
Commissioner Anderson posed concerns of possible redistricting. Dr. Murray agreed and expressed that the public needs to understand that the county is geographically very long and narrow and because of the different communities throughout the county it makes decisions on redistricting very challenging.
Ms. Henderson asked if there is ever any change in the benefit district boundaries. Mr. Theodore stated that it is actually in the ordinance and you would have to enact a change in the ordinance to change the boundaries.
Ms. Henderson asked if we were to eliminate Impact Fees in areas that have no or slow growth and those areas begin to grow, would it result in the additions of portables versus the additions of schools. Mr. Theodore stated that we have surplus portables and due to a lack of funds, nor the ability to borrow additional funds, our strategy at this point is to meet the needs of growth by using portable.
Commissioner Nelson stated that he is concerned when we consolidate schools (taking art rooms and turning them into classrooms) which diminishes capacity. He feels there is a quality of education issue to go along with the capacity of education issue and believes the citizens would give the School Board relief on this issue because they would like for their child to go into a space that is set up for art instead of a rolling cart with supplies. Commissioner Nelson said he struggles with these type of things as we have portables in Merritt Island, yet we closed a school and it is tough to explain that to the public. Ms. Henderson explained that we do have schools that have art-on-cart due to overcapacity but it didn't happen because we closed a school. Commission Nelson said that it seems to be happening more frequently and he doesn't agree that it was appropriate before. He explained that he is a supporter of Impact Fees but he wants it to be fair and equitable, as we have a duty to make sure that the fees are spent on the things that they were collected for.
Mr. Theodore mentioned that an audit is currently being conducted on the use of Impact Fees and after the completion of this audit the community will be reassured that the money is being spent accordingly. Commissioner Nelson explained that it will be a great starting point and he is looking forward to a clean starting point as we move forward.
Commissioner Infantini expressed that she has a wonderful working relationship with the School Board members and has no lack of confidence in their efforts and decisions. She stated that if we are going to point out the spending of tax payers money than we should look inward. Commissioner Infantini gave details on a $350,000 fire station that was built on the Harris property when it was known that there was only a 3-year lease to expire, which resulted in spending the money only to tear it down.
Commissioner Infantini also commented on the referral of portables and stated that there a lot of them in the South County. She expressed that she doesn't complain about the portables because she is thankful that she has people there occupying residences and she knows that if a real building was needed, the School Board would provide it.
Direction for Updating the Impact Fee Ordinance?
Chairman Dr. Murray put the discussion on the table to decide if it is recommended to go forward with a study to formally look at the current ordinance, since it hasn't been reviewed in 9 years. She stated that there has been a lot of change in the county over the last 9 years, but with the growth that is projected we are going to have a lot more changes for the better in upcoming years.
Ms. Henderson asked how the study would be done, who is involved and who would be paying for it. Mr. Scott answered that there are several ways to go about the study and provided the details to the members present. He stated that the estimated cost for the study on the entire ordinance and structure would be $160,000 and would update all seven Impact Fees, the Educational Facilities is just one of the seven that the County has.
Commissioner Fisher asked if the ordinance requires that the Impact Fees are reviewed over a specific amount of time, and has this been done. Mr. Scott replied that it should be reviewed every 5 years and the county has had Ad Hoc review certain aspects of it but the entire ordinance has not been looked at in a comprehensive way for 9 years.
Dr. Murray called for a consensus to support a formal study. School Board members and County Commissioner's were all in favor for the study.
Discussion ensued amongst the members present in regards to the RFP process for the study.
Commissioner Anderson entertained a motion to direct staff to develop an RFP and bring back the selection criteria so both bodies could review the criteria and take a vote on it. All County Commissioner were in favor of the motion.
Dr. Murray entertained a motion to support the County Commissioners process to develop an RFP. The motion was moved by Dr. Krupp and seconded by Ms. Henderson. All Board Members were in favor of the motion.
Dr. Murray requested that legal staff thoroughly review if Impact Fees can be used to pay for the study.