MANATEE -- While many Manatee County schools are overcrowded, capacity exists in some district schools so a lack of overall capacity has not been triggered, officials say.
"We have limited tools to deal with the issue of school concurrency," Bill Clague, assistant county attorney, told Manatee County commissioners Tuesday. "We are not allowed to deny development approvals or impose moratoriums or increase impact fees or exactions beyond proportionate share to deal with the problem. There is an expectation from the public that we can do that, but the law won't let us do that.
"But we do have a system in place and we are doing everything we can under the law, as it's written today, to deal with the problem in terms with our concurrency policy."
Clague and Manatee County School District officials gave a presentation about Manatee County school con
currency law, which is based on service area rather than attendance zone, according to Mike Pendley, school district executive planner.
Once the school district triggers a capacity deficit, limited contributions may be required from developers to provide resources, Clague said.
"They are not a panacea," he said. "They won't solve all the problems but some resources to deal with the school capacity issues."
If school capacity is available in a school service area or a contiguous school service area for each level of school, then a certificate of level of service is still issued.
"The interlocal agreement and Comprehensive Plan provide that school concurrency is approved through issuance of a CLOS at the final site plan or construction plan stage, based upon a formal review of the project and school capacity available at the time of that approval," according to the presentation.
"As yet, no one has triggered a failure of level of service in a school service area because we are measuring it by what's actually being built, not what's being approved on land use agendas," Clague said, pointing to a graph showing significantly fewer dwelling units are being built than have been approved. "I am hearing from staff that we are approaching the point where we may run out of seats. At which point, if somebody wants to move forward they are going to have to be willing to negotiate a proportionate share mitigation agreement with the county and the school district."
In 2008, the school district, Manatee County and several cities entered into an interlocal agreement for school concurrency. The agreement includes the school district, county, Bradenton, Palmetto, Holmes Beach and Longboat Key. It describes the "principles, guidelines, standards and strategies including adopted levels of service" for school concurrency.
Pendley said they are nearing capacity in the high schools.
"Our levels of service are established in a way that will slightly overburden our schools," he said. "We want the extra students there to ensure we have the need for a new building."
While the commission receives a school report about the status of capacity, it does not provide for school concurrency approval, which comes when the developer moves on to the next step of actually building the units, Pendley said.
Under state law, the school district is required to borrow capacity from the adjacent school service areas.
"That's the law that's put in place that we have to operate under," Pendley said. "If and when we exceed the level of service, we will notify the county that there is no capacity available to serve the development."
The school district does not have enough money to build new schools, Pendley said.
A joint impact fee study for the county and the school board is underway and expected to be completed at the end of the year. School district officials have said reinstituting impact fees, suspended since July 2009, is key to district financial security.
"We have needs but we don't have the money to implement those needs," he said.
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh thanked staff for the presentation.
"This has been a very, very important aspect in looking at different development coming forward," she said.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.