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North Bend mulls impact fees

North Bend's school impact development fees are woefully outdated. City leaders will discuss updating them at their next work session Oct. 24 when they also address updating development fees for fire protection. Both were on the City Council's agenda Oct. 3 and were tabled for discussion in the work session.

In 2007, Snoqualmie and King County will assess impact fees on new construction in the Snoqualmie Valley School District to the tune of $3,991.57 for a single-family home and $798.27 per multifamily dwelling unit. North Bend collects fees using a "very old, archaic number that hasn't been looked at in years," said North Bend treasurer Elena Montgomery. The city charges about $720 per single-family home, more than $3,000 less than developers in rural King County and Snoqualmie are charged.

The school district uses the money collected to pay for facilities needed to accommodate new students brought in by the new development, said Ron Ellis, school district business services director.

"We have looked at impact fees as both a bridge and a safety net for the future," he said.

Impact fees help pay for things like portable classrooms to house students until new schools can be built, bridging the way to the future, Ellis said. They also provide a safety net by covering unexpected construction cost increases, such as the "ridiculous" 26 percent jump that plagued construction of the slate of school improvements included as part of the $53.5 million bond passed by voters in 2003. District improvements include the ongoing construction of middle school No. 3, the construction of Cascade View Elementary School on Snoqualmie Ridge, the new sports facilities at Mount Si High School, a new gymnasium at Chief Kanim Middle School, an improved gymnasium floor at Fall City Elementary School and a school-wide fiber-optic system for high-speed communication.

"We're one of the fastest growing districts in the state," Ellis said. Last year the district's student population jumped 7 percent and looks to do the same again this year, he said. Within the next 15 years, the current student body of 5,300 is expected to double.

"Things are getting crowded very fast," Ellis said.

Impact fees help the district bridge the gap between current funding and need, he said. The fees are based on the prior year's capital facilities plan. That means that fees collected in 2007 will be based on the 2006 plan.

Because this plan was adopted early in the year, it won't include the recent feedback from the Facilities Task Force, which recommended a $209 million plan to build a new high school, elementary school and make other needed improvements.

If that plan is approved and adopted by the district, impact fees for it wouldn't be assessed until the following year, Ellis said.

State and county law limits how the fees may be used. The district further restricts the way the fees may be used, limiting them to paying for things like buildings, property, buses, computers and other physical items that may be tallied as capital, but not salaries or other noncapital expenses.

Fire fees

North Bend hired a consultant firm to calculate the cost of fire protection and emergency services by the type of development. The consultants evaluated the cost of emergency equipment and facilities, the number of calls per building type and calculated a fee.

The report prepared by Henderson, Young and Co. determined a fee of $622.25 per single-family home and $853.42 per multifamily dwelling unit ought to be assessed. Nonresidential construction fees were calculated to fall within a range of 20 cents per square foot for commercial office space to $9.61 per square foot for nursing homes. The fees are based partly on how often different business categories use emergency services.

Council members will discuss details of the report at a work session meeting.

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