Where were the impact fees spent?

Letter to the Editor

I read your editorial [District must do what is prudent, March 31] in the newspaper today and I wanted to bring some facts to your attention on the subject of fiscal responsibility of our local school district.

One very important topic that is missing from your editorial is the Title 20 impact fees that were collected for every new home built in Snoqualmie Ridge. It is my understanding that an estimated $4,000 has been collected for every new student in Snoqualmie Ridge and those monies are managed under an “Interlocal” agreement between the city of Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Valley School District.

Impact fees are defined as follows: “‘Impact fee’ means a payment of money imposed upon development as a condition of development approval to pay for school facilities needed to serve new growth and development, that is reasonably related to the new development that creates additional demand and need for public facilities, that is a proportionate share of the cost of the school facilities, and that is used for such facilities that reasonably benefit the new development.”

Further impact fees are defined [in city documents] to be used for: “Impact fees for the district’s system improvements shall be expended by the district for capital improvements, including but not limited to school planning, land acquisition, site improvements, necessary off-site improvements, construction, engineering, architectural, permitting, financing and administrative expenses, relocatable facilities, capital equipment pertaining to educational facilities and any other expenses which could be capitalized, and which are consistent with the district’s capital facilities plan.”

By my estimates the school district has received multiple millions of dollars in impact fees from the hundreds of homes built in Snoqualmie Ridge. This being the case, I would like to understand where the school district has put these funds to use as described above? One of your readers talks about the five new portables at the Snoqualmie Elementary School, which was likely funded by a portion of these fees while the bond measure was written and voted on by Valley constituents, exactly what the impact fees are intended for. Why has the Middle School problem taken the district by surprise since it was obvious the new residents were creating an overcrowding situation at SMS?

It is also my understanding that the school board has not collaborated with the City Council of the city of Snoqualmie or the mayor in spite of the fact that as written in the Title 20 document: “The mayor is authorized to execute, on behalf of the city, an interlocal agreement for the collection, expenditure and reporting of school impact fees …”

Your editorial calls for fiscal responsibility and I challenge you to write to your readers about the fact that monies have been collected to address this issue that was intended to be a collaborative process between the school district and the city of Snoqualmie. The fiscally responsible thing to do is use those funds for the very thing they were collected for and accommodate the growth of students on Snoqualmie Ridge in the city of Snoqualmie, which does not include buying buses and driving students down to a school in another city that is under utilized from past bad planning (does anyone understand that busing kids to Fall City has a cost too?).

Instead of collecting awards, our school board should be ashamed of themselves for not planning properly when monies and processes have been available to address these issues. Those who live in Snoqualmie Ridge understand that Fall City is a great place and Chief Kanim is a great school, it just isn’t our city or our school.

Finally, people need to understand that these boundary changes will only last three years when they will need to change again, further dividing more communities. We are only asking that a longer view be taken that does not continue to fragment the cities that are part of our community here in Snoqualmie Valley.

Todd McLaughlin