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School district opposes elimination of concurrency rule

By Staff | Sep 13, 2011

The elimination of a rule that requires infrastructure be in place for new development may affect the Lee County School District if the Lee County commissioners vote for that exemption in the near future.

Heather Hawkins, school board attorney, said in 2005 the legislature added schools to the list of concurrency entities. She said a number of changes were made in the last legislative session, however, that may affect school districts.

“School concurrency is optional right now,” she said. “The last legislative session made it optional.”

Hawkins said that concurrency stands for the proposition that if new developments are approved, infrastructure, such as utilities and roads, must be in place to accommodate related growth.

She said the developer needs to provide some form of mitigation, a cash payment or land donation, as a credit against impact fees. The district receives the funds all at once instead of overtime.

We are “not receiving any new money, just money under a different time frame,” Hawkins said.

If the concurrency rule is eliminated, the district then would have no means to recover the costs of a new development, she said.

Board Member Jane Kuckel said without concurrency, the district would not have any bargaining power with developers for schools being built in the middle of growth areas.

“This is a significant issue for us,” Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke said. “We look forward to getting support on this issue.”

He said the impact on the school district would be huge.

“The legislature evidently did not consider what the impact would be on school districts,” he said.

Hawkins wanted to bring the issue to the school board because of a meeting the Lee County commissioners had concerning the topic.

“I wanted you to be aware,” she said.

The Lee County commissioners held a planning meeting Monday that discussed the possible elimination of school concurrency. Hawkins said the recommendation by staff was to eliminate concurrency for schools and she anticipates further discussion will be made on how the county can go about doing that.

Although impact fees are not a part of the commissioner’s discussion right now, the school board thought it was important to discuss how it would affect the district if those fees also were eliminated.

“If they eliminate concurrency and impact fees then we would be in a situation where we would not receive any help,” Hawkins said.

She said if both were eliminated the district would have no mitigation tools in the future.

Hawkins said the county commissioners are asking for input from the school board before they make any decision.

School Board member Jeanne Dozier said for a long time the Lee County School District did not have impact fees. Once the district received those fees, she said it was a big step in helping the district deal with growth.

“If you eliminate concurrency then maybe you are going to open the door to eliminate fees that we are actually receiving,” she said. “The way that I understand is that concurrency protects us.”

Dozier said prior to the district receiving impact fees, schools were built, but they were not maintained because the money was not there to fund both new construction and needed maintenance of existing plants.

The option of concurrency for the district, Dozier said, is extremely important because they are seeing growth in the district. Although an official count will not be provided until October, the district believes they have had a minimum growth of 1,600 students this year.

“When other counties had a flat line, Lee County was growing,” Dozier said. “We are starting to grow again.”

She suggested a joint meeting with the county commissioners in he very near future to further the discussion of maintaining school concurrency.

Dozier said the district needs to be careful in giving up any opportunities, such as concurrency and impact fees, to bring additional funds into the district.

The school board agreed that the school attorney should draft a letter for the county commissioners explaining what the disadvantages would be for the district if concurrency was eliminated.

Kuckel said the draft should outline some talking points and some rational for not eliminating the rule. She said the letter should also address the desire to have a joint meeting to discuss the issue further.

“We have to act very quickly,” Board Chairman Thomas Scott said.

He said it is easy for the commissioners to give up on school concurrency because there were no voices there to talk about it. Scott went on to say that if the board was told when the county commissioners were going to have further discussion about school concurrency, there might be four or five voices from the school board present.