School impact fees back on table |

School impact fees back on table

More than a decade ago, the Park City School District asked for and received local permission to collect impact fees from developers of residential projects in order to help offset the financial impacts of additional students.

With lots of new subdivisions in the city and county pipelines and a state mandated ceiling on property tax levies, the district saw impact fees, like those charged by cities and counties to ensure that water, power and road improvements kept up with population growth, as a way to finance new school buildings and playing fields.

It didn’t take long, though, for the real estate lobby at the state legislature to put an end to school impact fees. Claiming the additional fees put an onerous burden on developers, one that threatened to stunt the state’s emerging real estate growth spurt, lawmakers added language to the existing impact fee laws to prohibit school districts from collecting impact fees.

The new rule put a severe damper on the Park City school district’s budget where young families were eagerly snapping up homes, especially in the Snyderville Basin. As the district’s short term impact fee policy came to a halt, a few developers stepped forward with voluntary payments, but as the real estate market became increasingly competitive, those donations dried up.

Now that other parts of the state, however, are feeling the same pressures in terms of growing student bodies and limited education funding, the issue is getting another chance.

State Rep. Steven Mascaro (R-West Jordan) has submitted a bill that would reinstate school districts among the political entities eligible to levy impact fees.

Local school officials are pessimistic about the bill’s chance of survival this year, but perhaps they underestimate the public’s support for education.

The past decade offers plenty of evidence that residential growth is not going to be diverted from communities that offer good schools just because that district charges an impact fee. Excellent schools will continue to be a draw for home buyers and it is time for the state legislature to acknowledge that by passing Mascaro’s H.B. 74.

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