Education

Manatee County School Board removes link between impact fees, sales tax renewal

Charlie Kennedy, Manatee County School Board, listens as Manatee County commissioners discuss a vote to support a recommendation by the school board to reinstate impact fees to pay for schools in this January 2016 file photograph. Manatee County School Board will consider removing a controversial caveat from the impact fee collection schedule during a board meeting Tuesday. Board vice-chair Charlie Kennedy asked for a motion to be added to the agenda after a lot of careful consideration, he said.
Charlie Kennedy, Manatee County School Board, listens as Manatee County commissioners discuss a vote to support a recommendation by the school board to reinstate impact fees to pay for schools in this January 2016 file photograph. Manatee County School Board will consider removing a controversial caveat from the impact fee collection schedule during a board meeting Tuesday. Board vice-chair Charlie Kennedy asked for a motion to be added to the agenda after a lot of careful consideration, he said. gjefferies@bradenton.com

It took three tries, but Manatee County School Board members said they think they’ve finally gotten it right.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a controversial caveat tying the collection of impact fees to the extension of the sales tax renewal.

Residents have told the board repeatedly since the first vote in November they won’t vote to renew the sales tax if the impact fee caveat is in place.

“The worry really hit home with me,” said board Vice Chairman Charlie Kennedy, who brought the issue back to the board meeting. “I began to kind of panic a little bit because we all know how important this sales tax extension is.”

The resolution now goes to the Manatee County Commission, which has the final say on whether the caveat comes out or not.

If we need to take the caveat out so we start moving forwardm I think we need to do that.

Board Chairman Bob Gause

School impact fees were suspended in 2009. Impact fees levied on newly constructed homes in the county can only be used to build in relation to population growth. The district can build new schools or new additions with impact fees, but cannot use them to renovate existing buildings or other maintenance projects.

Superintendent Diana Greene recommended the board reimplement impact fees on a three-year schedule. She recommended the district collect 50 percent of the maximum allowable rate the first year, 75 percent the second year and 100 percent the third year.

In November, the school board decided to adopt Greene’s plan but added a caveat, stating if voters approved extending a half-cent sales tax in November, the collection rate of impact fees would drop to 50 percent.

The move caused immediate outcry in the community, with many describing the caveat as a deal for developers. Some, including county commissioners Charles Smith and Robin DiSabatino, have said they cannot support the sales tax referendum if the caveat stays in place.

April was the first time the board formally revisited the issue with Miner the only vote to remove the caveat. Kennedy and the three other board members agreed to keep the caveat in place.

With the unanimous vote Tuesday, the school board resolution returns to the original recommendation.

“This is a great night,” Miner said. “Let’s go get both the proper impact fees and the sales tax. Let’s all work together to get the money we need for our schools, for our children, for our community.”

In other business, the school board :

▪ Voted to close Wakeland Elementary School and move the program to Johnson Middle School for the 2017-18 academic year.

▪ Approved Diana Greene’s four-year contract as superintendent .

▪ Approved two settlements with former employees: $25,000 for Steve Gulash and $27,500 for Troy Pumphrey.

▪ Approved a $2.3 million purchase of land in Parrish to use as the site for a new high school.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

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