Developers would pay for schools under plan

November 01, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County officials said a plan to fund new schools proposed Tuesday by Board of Education members would pass on to developers costs as high as $33,750 per new single-family home.

The plan, which is in its first draft, states that in addition to paying an excise tax, developers would pay for costs associated with each new student generated by the developer's project. Officials discussed the proposed draft Tuesday during a joint meeting with Board of Education members and the County Commissioners.

The school system said the average cost for each new student in the county is $45,000.

Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent for school operations, said the cost passed to the developer would depend on the type of home being built. A single-family house, on average, produces three-fourths of a student, so the cost per single family home would be three-fourths of $45,000, or $33,750. A duplex, on average, produces one-third of a student, so the cost passed to the developer would be nearly $15,000.


Officials said a new apartment produces one-fourth of a student, on average, so the developer's cost would be $11,250 per new apartment.

That amount is just for the "bricks and mortar" to put a student in a classroom, and does not include operational expenses, like teachers' salaries.

"Currently our (ordinances) have stopped development based primarily on school capacity," said W. Edward Forrest, president of the Board of Education.

Under the proposed plan, when a developer has a proposal for new homes that does not meet the adequate public facilities ordinance, the developer would submit a plan to provide funding for each student generated by the new development.

Forrest said if a development brings more than 100 new students to the school system, developers could choose to provide a site for a new school or a significant upgrade. If fewer than 100 new students enter the system from the development, the impact on schools would be less severe, and fewer funds would be necessary.

Board members said Tuesday that many of the county's schools are at 90 percent or even 100 percent capacity.

Board of Education Vice President Jacqueline B. Fischer said that by passing the cost of building new schools to the developers, the number of students in each classroom will be able to remain relatively low.

Forrest said that if the county does not charge developers for the cost of building new schools and finding a place for new students, the burden will fall on existing taxpayers.

Board members said the plan was not meant as a way to stop development.

"We're not anti-development," Forrest said.

School officials said the plan is designed to allow development while also providing funding for the increased capacity in the county's schools caused by that development.

Forrest said the board will gather information, recommendations and comments on the proposed plan. The plan would also go through a committee before being presented to the board for a first read.

He said it was likely there would be a public hearing on the plan.

Washington County Public Schools says the average cost for each new student is $45,000. The cost per student generated by each dwelling unit is:

· Single-family home (three-fourths of a student): $33,750

· Duplex (one-third of a student): $15,000

· Apartment (one-fourth of a student): $11,250

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