03-01-2011 FoFC concerned that mitigation fees woefully inadequate – taxpayers to pick up tab for developer’s profits
March 2, 2011 by FofFC
Filed under Addressing the "Northern Annexations" and Development Plans, Crumland Farm, Frederick City, Distribution Material, Frederick, Growing Smart with Adequate Public Services, Municipal Growth: addressing the hidden costs of sprawl in New Market, Schools, Share your Opinion on Policy, Spread the Word!
Testimony before BOCC ref: Frederick County Ordinance 09-28-532, a repeal of the countywide APFO for schools on land annexed into municipalities for development after June 23, 2009.
There are many issues to discuss tonight with respect to repeal of referenced ordinance: sovereignty, fairness, legality, concurrency, redistricting, phasing etc, but of all these issues there is one no more important than the bottom line – maintaining equity among our schools and high standards within each one. To do that we need to be as fiscally responsible as we can be and to us that means a complete financial analysis and disclosure /vetting of that to the public. When it comes to our children, our taxes and quality of life we are asking for transparency.
It is our understanding that you have and are considering using a “mitigation fee” – to be paid for by developers – for school construction or additions. If the “mitigation fee” is the same as that proposed by the Frederick County Builder’s Association on February 10, 2011 then mitigation is not a solution, in other words the mitigation fee will not cover the construction costs of building new space for new kids.
A simple analysis of your idea to use “mitigation fees” to cover the school costs – we use the Crumland Farm annexation - which demonstrates that developers will pay for only a small part of the school costs their developments will demand:
- There are 1100 housing units of varying types planned for construction on the Crumland Farm
- With those new homes there will be an estimated 550 new school children
- School capacity at Monocacy Elementary School (the school that will house those children) – based on December 2010 enrollment figures would be insufficient; Monocacy Elementary School is currently at 109% capacity (in other words that school is already overcrowded).
- Neither the County’s Capital Improvement Plan nor the Frederick County Public School’s 10 Year Facilities Plan have budgeted for a new elementary school
- Cost of a new elementary school costs between $23 and $25 million.
The FC Builder’s Association has proposed the following fees for elementary school mitigation:
- single family home $3870
- Town home $4053
- Multi family home $897
There will be 550 single family homes, 275 townhomes and 275 multi family homes. The total mitigation fee the Frederick County Builder’s Association proposes for the Crumland Farms annexation development is $3,489,750
Even with the developer’s mitigation fees the County will be $20 million short of what it needs to build a school for these new children. Even if the impact fee revenue from Crumland development project – estimated to be 11.9 million we would still be $7.5 million short.
Please tell the taxpayers of this county how this will work for them and their families.
I would also like to reiterate that the $20 million shortfall is only on the cost to CONSTRUCT the school. We still have to educate the children – ie the cost of school operation.
- The cost to operate an elementary school PER YEAR is $8.4 million.
- The cost to operate a middle school PER YEAR is $10.8
- The cost to operate a high school PER YEAR is $19.3
And, if you are a parent of youngsters who will attend Monocacy Elementary School you might ask how the school system will deal with these additional 550 children when they enter Monocacy Middle School and then TJ High School? The “mitigation fee” proposal is only applicable to those school levels that fail the APFO. Currently Monocacy Middle and TJ are not overcrowded so they would not receive any mitigation funding. Yet, presumably – and if all goes well – our grade school students continue onto those levels! So what will happen when these kids move on, especially to Monocacy Middle which is at 88% capacity? It is likely that Monocacy Middle would need a multi-million dollar addition to accommodate the additional kids.
I used Crumland Farm as an example of just ONE development in Frederick County. There are many more that would follow similar calculations and add additional burden to the county coffers to pay for new schools and their operations. Where will this money come from?
For public information benefit I add that municipalities hold none of the financial responsibility for ensuring school adequacy or education.
As Frederick County’s Commissioners, who were elected to look out for the taxpayer interest, please keep your campaign pledges and do not repeal Frederick County Ordinance 09-28-532. Please do not jeopardize our childrens’ education, overburden our school system, its teachers and administrators, and the taxpayers of this county.