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Snoqualmie Valley's school impact fees on the rise

School impact fees in Snoqualmie Valley School District are on the rise again, a change from last year. Enrollment continues to grow at just over 2 percent annually, but the fees are calculated by a state-set formula, and have fluctuated widely in the past.

According to the district’s recently approved capital facilities plan, enrollment will grow steadily.

For the next six years, student ppopulation will rise from just under 6,000 full-time equivalent students now to a projected 7,100 FTE by 2019. Much of the increase can be attributed the transition to full-day Kindergarten expected in 2016, which changes Kindergarteners from half to full FTEs in the projections.

In response to the enrollment growth the school impact fees, assessed on new construction only, will rise by 4 percent for single-family homes, to $8,325.63 and by almost 27 percent for multi-family units, to $4,273.13 starting in 2015.

In actual revenue for the school district, Business Services Director Ryan Stokes said, the school impact fees bring in about $700,000 or $800,000 a year, much less than the actual cost of a building.

“Essentially, the impact fee is about 25 percent of the cost per residence,” he told the school board at their May 15 meeting. The fee is calculated strictly on the construction costs of a project, he explained, which is less than the total project cost. It is also heavily discounted, with a 10-year tax credit in King County.

School districts typically use impact fee revenue to provide short-term capacity, like portable classrooms Stokes said. According to the district’s capital facilities plan, every level of school in the district today doesn’t have enough permanent capacity, and is relying on portable classrooms.

Before voting on the plan, several board members questioned Stokes. Board member Carolyn Simpson noted that the plan has stated for several years now that the district intends to build a new elementary and middle school, and was concerned that their lack of progress on those goals would affect their capacity to charge impact fees. Stokes said the district could always demonstrate a need for permanent capacity, since “We have about 35 percent of our capacity in portables.”

Board member Tavish MacLean asked about the district’s limitations in using impact fees. Stokes said the district is able to use the impact fees for various project costs, such as the ongoing design work for the sixth elementary school the district plans to build, but no project can be funded entirely by impact fee revenue. Also, he said fees must be spent within 10 years, and the district tracked the fees to be sure it spent them on time and as permitted.

The plan, approved in a 4-1 vote May 15, with board member Carolyn Simpson opposed, now goes to a King County technical review. Once it passes the review, the district will be able to submit the plan to the cities of Snoqualmie, North Bend and Sammamish, which must also adopt the plan before they can collect the fees for the district.

 

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