Impact fee opponent needs to find another source of cash

December 12, 2003

A Jefferson County, W.Va., businessman who says impact fees are a "bad, bad way" to raise money for new school construction this week said he'll try to petition the matter to referendum.

Our question to petition author Paul Ashbaugh: If impact fees aren't the answer, what is? There's got to be one, because with the growth Jefferson County has experienced, money must be found for school construction.

Ashbaugh, who said he's been involved in home building and building lot sales, said he's acting now because he's concerned about how impact fees will affect the ability of people to buy homes.

Even the purchaser of a mobile home, one of the most economical types of housing, will have to pay a $7,122 fee, according to Ashbaugh.


What he isn't saying is that no matter how cheap the type of housing is, chances are its residents will send some students to local schools. And if new residents don't pay that fee, then the cost will be shared with all taxpayers, including those who have paid their local taxes for many years.

According to Board of Education members, some of those existing taxpayers have said that unless impact fees go forward, they won't vote in favor of a $19 million bond issue that will be used to build a second high school.

Why is a second high school needed? The current building was built in 1973 for 900 students, which a university study found is the perfect-sized population. Without a second high school, it would have to hold more than 2,000 students, in a building constructed for half that many.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the county grew by more than 6,000 residents in the previous 10 years, or about 17 percent.

Growth has consequences. Roads that were once adequate for a more rural population get crowded. So do schools. The money from the bond issue will also renovate the existing high school, which, as anyone who has teenagers knows, has seen some hard use.

Ashbaugh may have another source of funding to replace what impact fees would bring in. We assume so, because when you say something is a "bad, bad way," then it follows that there must be a better way.

We await his funding proposal with great interest.

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