Baltimore County

Carroll eliminates school impact fee through FY2016

In a 3-2 vote, the Board of Carroll County Commissioners voted in favor of extending the moratorium on the education impact fee through fiscal year 2016.

Commissioners Robin Frazier, Richard Rothschild and David Roush supported the measure Oct. 3, citing a lack of school construction needed in the foreseeable future.

"It is especially important during difficult economic times to find ways to reduce costs for our citizens," Frazier said in a statement released after the vote. "The Board of Education has no plans to build capacity in their six year plan, therefore, any impact fees collected during the next few years would need to be returned."

The commissioners first reduced the impact fee to zero in June 2012, which will last through the end of fiscal year 2014. The commissioners then directed staff to draft a proposed resolution to extend the moratorium through fiscal 2016, according to a county news release.

During the public comment period, the county received only one submission and it was opposed to the extension through fiscal 2016, according to budget director Ted Zaleski.

Developers had been required to pay $2,257 per apartment, $3,061 per mobile home, $6,303 per single family home, and $7,006 per town home as the education portion of the impact fee.

Impact fees must be used to fund facilities or infrastructure to accommodate growth and cannot be held indefinitely.

The county has generally regarded six years as a reasonable time frame before impact fees are returned, according to Zaleski.

Carroll County Public Schools enrollment has been dropping steadily in recent years and is projected to continue declining through the 2019-2020 school year. The school system currently has about 26,500 students enrolled this year and enrollment is projected to hit 25,142 in 2019-2020 before beginning to rise.

Carroll County Public Schools spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said in an email that the school system understands the rationale behind the commissioners decision since there is no new school construction planned in the capital plan.

"However, we still will be seeking capital funds for much needed systemic improvements and modernizations of existing buildings," Gaddis said.

Commissioners Doug Howard and Haven Shoemaker voted against the proposal, arguing that this decision should be made on an annual basis.

In a news release, Howard added to his statements at the commissioners' meeting citing concerns with the six-year time frame to retain the collected impact fees.

"There is a fundamental flaw in the way the impact fee process works. It considers too short a time period because houses last 50 years or more and schools will need to be built to accommodate them at some time," Howard said.

"One need only look at our use of impact fees for Mt. Airy Middle School to realize that it is not as simple as some may suggest. The only way our current capacity can justify the elimination of these fees is to accept annual redistricting of students which I am against. This is why the entire matter needs to be reconsidered and the law needs to be rewritten."

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