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Impact fees draw official's concerns

May 09, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Work continues on developing an impact fee system for Jefferson County, but one county official raised several questions Thursday about the county's ability to implement such fees.

Impact fees are fees collected from housing developers to pay increased services needed because of population growth.

Although impact fees can be used to pay for services in a number of areas, one that has been getting a lot of attention is public education.

The Jefferson County Board of Education has been studying student population figures and housing trends in the county to come up with a basis for a school impact fee.

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But during a Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday, Commissioner James G. Knode cast doubt on the possibility of school impact fees.

Knode said the way he understands state law regarding impact fees, the fees cannot be collected to offset the cost of new schools if they are funded with state money, such as the newly completed ninth-grade center adjacent to Jefferson High School.

Also, local schools are part of a statewide school system, which in most parts of the state, is shrinking because of student population declines, Knode said.

Knode questioned whether an impact fee could be collected for such a system since impact fees are designed to help growing school systems.

Further, Knode said he believes a state agency - the School Building Authority - has already been set up to pay for new schools.

"This should not be a local financial concern at all," Knode said.

The issues were one of many brought up in a long discussion about impact fees.

Commissioner Greg Corliss said the concerns do not change the fact that population growth is something that has to be dealt with. Corliss said he wanted to review some numbers and other information Knode had to support his comments.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan said Knode's comments raise some interesting issues. Unfortunately, state laws allowing impact fees are crude in some areas, Morgan said.

Paul Raco, director of the Jefferson County Planning, Zoning and Engineering Department, questioned how the impact fees will be collected in towns. There is some concern whether the towns can collect such a fee for the county.

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