Builders ask Manatee County School Board to go slow reinstating impact fees

Braden River High students honored for prosthetic leg creation

Braden River High School students who created a prosthetic leg and won a national TSA award were honored at a Manatee County School Board meeting Tuesday, where they explained their project.
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Braden River High School students who created a prosthetic leg and won a national TSA award were honored at a Manatee County School Board meeting Tuesday, where they explained their project.

BRADENTON -- As the Manatee County School Board mulls asking the Manatee County Commission to reinstate impact fees on new homes to help pay for new schools, two area builder representatives requested Tuesday that other options be considered first.

"If there's any other alternative, we'd like to present it," said Morgan Bentley, a lawyer representing the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, during the school board meeting.

Pat Neal of Neal Communities echoed the statement.

"My request is that you take enough time to study your school needs and the various tax sources that you have before you adopt the $6,000 tax on new homes," he said.

A study done by TishlerBise of Bethesda, Md., recommended the following school impact fees for new homes:

$6,415 for a duplex or townhouse.

$6,086 for a single family home.

$3,276 for a multifamily or other style home.

$1,372 for a mobile home.

School impact fees would be collected along with other county impact fees.

County impact fees help build roads and other infrastructures.

School impact fees can be spent on building new schools, adding on to an existing school or buying school buses.

Pat Benson, a retired educator and steering committee member helping the district with long-term planning, said the schools need the impact fees.

"Our schools do need our money. Schools do not waste money," she said. "We don't tax our people enough."

The board had been expected to pass a resolution Tuesday night asking the county to reinstate impact fees, which were suspended in 2009 when the economy hit a downturn.

With increased growth and new construction booming now, the board joined the county to conduct a study on impact fees, a state requirement before being able to reinstate them.

The resolution was not on Tuesday's agenda because the district wanted to give the public more time to look over the study prepared by consultants. The study has been posted on the district website for one week.

Impact fees come back for board action in December, and then go before the Manatee County Commission for final approval. If the timeline goes as planned, the impact fees could next be collected beginning in April.

In other action, the school board unanimously approved backdated contracts with local law enforcement agencies to provide school resource officers in district schools.

All district high schools and middle schools are covered with a full-time dedicated SRO. Two elementary schools have a dedicated SRO. The seven city elementary schools share one full-time officer, but the rest of the 24 elementary schools in the county do not have full-time SROs.

Also, during "STEM night" at the board meeting, two student presentations focused on science, technology, engineering and math achievements, which included scholarship winners and prosthetic leg creators.

Jessica Zelitt, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School, and Domenic Aluise, a senior at Braden River High School, each won a $1,000 Scobee Scholarship created in honor of Cmdr. Dick Scobee of the Challenger Space Shuttle. It is awarded annually by the Florida Association for the Gifted to one male and one female student.

"Our district doesn't take a backseat to anyone in the state or in the nation in our high schools or in our middle schools when it comes to STEM," district spokesman Mike Barber said.

Aluise also joined TSA teammates Elezar Tonev and C.J. Cooper showing a prosthetic leg they created for competition. They won state and national competitions and created their own business.

"This has opened many doors for us," Cooper said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.