Meeting of the minds? School district, Snoqualmie, North Bend coming to agreement on school impact fees

Within a few weeks, the Snoqualmie Valley School District should be on the same calendar page with Snoqualmie and North Bend, ending a two-year discrepancy with the cities. The district's board of directors voted Thursday, March 22, to adopt a contract amendment that added new language, holding each city harmless from litigation in its collection of school impact fees for the district.

The contract amendments will be forwarded on to the two city councils for review and adoption. The Snoqualmie City Council approved the amendment to the contract unanimously on Monday, March 26. North Bend will discuss it Tuesday, April 3.

Since the new language complies with the cities' request for protection from any lawsuits that might arise from an error of the school district's, both cities are expected to approve the amendments. If they do so, both will begin collecting the impact fees on new development, as stated in the district's 2011 capital facilities plan, $8,504 per single-family home, and $2,742 per multi-family unit.

For North Bend, the new fees represent a small increase for single-family homes, and a small decrease for multi-family units. The city has been collecting impact fees of $8,140 and $3,252 since 2011, but did not adopt the 2012 fee, because of concerns over the district's failed bond measures in February and April 2011.

For Snoqualmie, the new fees will more than triple. Since 2010, Snoqualmie has been collecting $2,687 per single-family home, and 1,033 per multi-family unit.

When presented with the school district's 2010 capital facilities plan proposing the dramatic increase for 2011, Snoqualmie's council balked. Mayor Matt Larson said the depressed housing market in Snoqualmie, and therefore the city's real estate excise tax revenue, would suffer from the fee increase, and  suggested delaying action on the fee until the school district passed its planned bond for a new middle school. The middle school bond failed twice, and Snoqualmie continued collecting the old fees.

Is there any way for the school district to recoup the estimated $500,000 or more that the district didn't receive due to the lower fees collected? No, Ryan Stokes, district business services director,"It's just going forward."

Councilman Bob Jeans attended the school board meeting, and told board members he thought his fellow councilmen would be satisfied with the amendments.

The amendments were developed over several months of discussion with the Snoqualmie City Council. Negotiations began after the board began considering the 2011 capital facilities plan, with its single-family home fee increase last May. During that discussion, several board members expressed frustration about the city of Snoqualmie's position, saying a specific indemnification was not necessary since it was already included in the interlocal agreement between the two entities. Board member Scott Hodgins wistfully suggested asking the city to implement a building moratorium until it began collecting the current-year fees, too.

Impact fees are a tax on new construction that school districts are empowered to charge to pay for new school capacity in anticipation of enrollment increases. They are calculated within each district's annual capital facilities plan, using a state formula that takes into account existing school building capacity (both permanent and portable), and six-year enrollment projections. Districts can't assess an impact fee if growth is not projected; for example, Snoqualmie Valley did not collect an impact fee in 2009.


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