The good news is the Manatee County commission approved a School Board proposal to reinstate school impact fees. The bad news is the proposal set fees at a fraction of the recommended amount and included a sop to developers that virtually guarantees the school district will lose money.
The School Board's consultant ran the numbers and recommended a fee structure, but at its Nov. 10 meeting the board only considered phasing in fees at 50 percent in 2016, 75 percent in 2017 and 100 percent in 2018.
With developers Carlos Beruff and Pat Neal looking on, board members swore opposition to impact fees, but worried that without them voters wouldn't extend a sales tax for capital projects, which expires next year.
The incremental plan was about to pass when the board, unable to resist appeasing developers further, added a proviso that if the sales tax passed, impact fees would be capped at 50 percent. The idea came from board Chairman Robert Gause, whose engineering company serves developers.
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So now people will face a false choice on the sales tax. If they vote yes, developers skip out on half their impact fees. If they vote no, they send a message to the School Board, but the district loses the revenue, which is more than twice what's expected from impact fees.
The county commission could have amended the proposal, but didn't.
Commissioners Betsy Benac, Vanessa Baugh, Larry Bustle, Carol Whitmore and John Chappie voted to approve it. Ms. Benac, Ms. Baugh and Mr. Bustle were at least uneasy tying the fees to the tax, but didn't want to interfere with the School Board, even to save it from itself.
Only Charles Smith and Robin DiSabatino felt strongly enough to vote no. Mr. Smith put it best: "This means that something that should pass will not pass."