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Cost of 3 new school projects won't be taxing

May 09, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County is building two new elementary schools and adding to a third.

Thanks to impact fees on new houses, the schools won't cost local taxpayers one dime.

School leaders asked the Jefferson County Commission Thursday to approve a deal in which the developer of the proposed Breckenridge subdivision on Job Corps Road will do $681,000 worth of site work for a new elementary school to be built there in lieu of paying impact fees on 60 homes.

The agreement, which received the commission's blessing, means the state School Building Authority, which pays for new school construction, will agree to the Jefferson County School Board's request for $6 million toward the $9 million needed to build the new 500-student school.

In effect, the $681,000 in site work will become part of the $3.2 million in impact fees school officials will submit to the state as the county's share of the cost of building the new elementary school. The school is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2010, school officials said.

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Schools Superintendent Susan Wall, Assistant Superintendent Ralph L. Dinges Jr. and Scott Suddeth, a Jefferson County School Board member, asked the commission to approve the agreement.

The developer, B.C. Partners of Maryland, gave the school board 15 acres on which to build the school.

F. Mark Schiavone, impact fee coordinator for the county, said the new 694-home Breckenridge subdivision will be built near two previous smaller subdivisions with the same name -- one with 45 homes and one with 282 homes.

Jefferson County has the only impact fee ordinance among all 55 West Virginia counties. Comprehensive countywide zoning is required to adopt an impact fee ordinance, Schiavone said.

The fee for each new home is $13,070, of which $11,358 goes to the school board for new construction. The rest is divvied up between law enforcement, fire and EMS departments, and parks and recreation, he said.

"New residents pay for the growth," Schiavone said. "The fee is passed on to the home buyer who creates the demand for schools and services."

The state School Building Authority accepts either impact fees or new construction bonds from county school boards.

Berkeley County, which is planning to build a new $50 million high school in the county's north end, has to come up with $25 million in taxpayer-approved construction bonds as its share of the project. County voters recently defeated comprehensive zoning.

Schiavone said before the recession, Jefferson County took in $3 million to $4 million per year in impact fees. That amount dropped to about half that with the economic downturn.

Wall said the school district, in addition to the new Breckenridge-area elementary school, is building a new 300-student elementary school for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. The school will be near Blue Ridge Elementary School, which has students in kindergarten through fifth grade, to take pressure off that building.

The third new construction project is an addition to South Jefferson Elementary School, Wall said.

Those two projects also are using impact fees to represent the county's share of the construction costs before the state, Wall said.

The three new construction projects will eliminate the need for portable classrooms countywide, she said.

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