Commissioner proposed exemption to APFO proposal

November 26, 2003|by TARA REILLY

Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson on Tuesday said he wants residents who send their children to private schools to be exempt from a proposal that would charge developers per dwelling unit if they build in areas where elementary schools are at 85 percent capacity.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said in a phone interview later in the day that Munson's position is "not possible. It's not practical. It's not feasible."

The fee would be about $6,500 per unit and would go toward the cost of building additional classrooms to make room for students who will live in the new homes.


The charge could bring in several hundred thousand to millions of dollars per subdivision, depending on how many dwelling units a development would contain, county officials have said.

Some Washington County Board of Education officials have said the revenue would help the School Board make necessary repairs to schools to accommodate growth, while its annual capital improvement budget would pay for other repairs to aging schools.

The School Board has said it is facing an $80 million backlog in school construction projects.

The fee would be part of the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), if approved by the commissioners.

The commissioners discussed the proposed changes at a meeting Tuesday, at which Munson made the comments.

The APFO helps ensure schools, roads and other infrastructure are adequate to handle growth.

People who have expressed concern about the proposal have said home buyers would end up paying the fee because developers would include it in house prices.

Munson said it wouldn't be fair for parents to be stuck with the fee if their children aren't attending public schools. He said they shouldn't have to pay for both private and public schools, and that making them do so could lead to a court challenge.

"I think it's only fair that they be exempt from paying," Munson said after the meeting. "They're not contributing to the overpopulation of the school. I think only the ones who use the schools should have to pay."

Munson said he did not know whether residents who buy homes but don't have children should have to pay the fee.

He said one of the ways the School Board could save money for repairs was to "hurry up and consolidate more schools."

"We have way too many elementary schools," Munson said.

Munson suggested that Sharpsburg Elementary School be closed and its students be sent to Boonsboro Elementary School. He said middle and senior high students in the Sharpsburg area are sent to Boonsboro schools, so it would make sense for elementary students to go there, too.

He said Boonsboro Elementary School could be expanded, if needed, to accommodate the Sharpsburg students.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said during the meeting that the commissioners would not discuss Munson's comments about the fee exemption.

"This board has already decided we're not going to get to that," Snook said.

"It just doesn't hold water," Wivell said. "Who's left to pay for education?"

Wivell said that the county wouldn't be able to pay for public education if it followed Munson's position.

"It would basically make it unaffordable to anyone else," Wivell said.

Earlier this year, Munson said he supported the elimination of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and the public school system.

Snook said the commissioners would review the APFO proposal regarding schools at a Dec. 9 meeting and vote Dec. 16 on whether to approve the proposal.

In October, the commissioners voted to levy a $5,445 per unit APFO fee on commercial and residential development in the area of Robinwood and Edgewood drives and Mount Aetna Road.

That fee will go toward road improvements.

In addition, developers building in the Long Meadow Road and Maugans Avenue areas are required to pay a $5,600 per dwelling unit fee for road improvements.

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