Who is going to pay for ALL this new growth?! And how?! (Public hearing Tuesday evening!)

FINALLY the public hearing on legislation to adjust the inadequate Mitigation Fees (“School Construction Fees”) is on the agenda after being hijacked and put on hold for a while by the majority on the County Council (Otis, Chmelik, Shreve, Delauter).

Every day that has passed and continues to pass that we are not charging the actual costs of new growth puts us further in debt.

cash

BASICALLY…

Too much growth + not enough funding for infrastructure = overcrowded schools and parking lots for roads!

NEW RESIDENTIAL GROWTH SHOULD PAY FOR ITSELF

That had been the philosophy that had helped us to balance growth with infrastructure, with much of the funding coming from Impact Fees, Excise Fees that used to help pay for roads but were eliminated by the Blaine Young Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and more recently Mitigation Fees, which were conceived of and drafted by the developers FOR the developers.

The MITIGATION FEE is one of TWO important bills (the other being DRRAs) on the Council’s agenda for Tuesday evening. It is IMPORTANT FOR US TO SUPPORT our County Executive’s bill to RAISE the cost of THE FEE so that it keeps pace with the cost of construction!

Otherwise, the hole we have been digging ourselves into only deepens.

During the tenure of the Blaine Young BOCC, developers wanted to build large residential developments in areas where the schools were already overcrowded. So, at that time, they proposed paying “Mitigation Fees,” rather than waiting or contributing directly to alleviate the overcrowding in the school or schools where those new students would attend.

Those fees were established, and by exercising that option, developers were allowed to move forward, whether the actual problem was sufficiently resolved on not. Now, these mitigation fees need to be updated, but development interests are fighting against the increase. THEY don’t want to keep their end of the ‘Deal.’

Let me assure you, they (the developers) don’t actually pay for any of it. The new homeowners do. Like Impact Fees, they are rolled into their 30 year mortgage. So for example, at 4% interest, an additional $10,000 would cost an additional $50.00 per month in their mortgage.

If the cost of providing…at least…adequate (not overcrowded) schools for the families that live in those communities can not be avoided, the question is about who should pay that cost, and how?

The alternative is for every current resident in the county paying more to support critical infrastructure that the county would not need if not for the new developments that are being asked to pay for it.

RIGHT NOW WE ARE PAYING:

When there is not enough funding or revenue sources, our children are stuck learning in trailers instead of classrooms and we are all stuck on roads that are insufficient to handle all the traffic.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS…

If new growth doesn’t pay for itself, and we HAVE to pay for more school capacity and roads that are safe and sufficient, it will be the taxpayers of our county that will have to pay the bill to do so!

So WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR ALL THIS?!

Ahem – that would be you and mer, the taxpayers! There will be little choice but to increase taxes, and those who are against raising the Mitigation Fee are essentially FOR raising our taxes!

IMPORTANTLY!

Word on the street has it the developers, their attorneys, and allied businesses will be out in force to not correct the actual cost of the Mitigation Fee to reflect the current real costs of new school construction in areas that are already overcrowded and underfunded!

IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO US!

It is up to you and me as citizens to push for these fees to be based on actual real construction costs. These out of county and out of state developers may be able to fund the campaigns of those who will vote their wishes, but you and I have the POWER of the VOTE!

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Please join us for the Frederick County Council’s public hearing on Tuesday, May 1 at 7:00 PM.

WHERE:

Winchester Hall
12 E. Church St.
1st Floor Hearing Room
Frederick, MD 21701

PLEASE NOTE that, below, I’ve included the text of an excellent piece about this, from Steve McKay. It includes good information about the mitigation fees. Steve is the past president of RALE – Residents Against Landsdale Expansion and citizen activist on issues related to safe roads and adequate schools.


From Steve McKay:

“This Tuesday (May 1 at 7:00pm) is your opportunity to tell the Council that they need to prioritize our children over their developer friends.

This Tuesday is your opportunity to tell the Council that the fees should reflect the cost of building schools. It’s really that simple.

The current fees are based on 2012 school construction costs. Two years ago, the Council failed to act on this issue and the longer they wait, the higher the fee increase needs to be, and the further behind we fall in affording new schools.

You can bet that the builders will be there in force. They’ve already been lobbying hard to keep the council from raising these fees. Just look at their letter below. The builders are pushing their members to come out against this fee increase. They call it a “job killer” … that’s garbage.

Councilman Tony Chmelik – a firm friend of the developers – will say that this is about “affordable housing”. Well let me tell you something: This has nothing to do with either affordable housing or jobs. This is about our children.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. How much are we talking about? A single family home built in an over-crowded school district – like Urbana – would have their fees go from $9,450 to $15,472 – let’s call it a $6,000 increase. Single family homes are being sold for upwards of $500,000 – so that’s a little more than a 1% price increase to absorb this fee. That’s only $32.00 a month, under a 30 year mortgage at 5% – probably your Starbucks budget. This isn’t about affordable housing.

That price difference also won’t impact a buyer’s decision. So it has nothing to do with home building jobs, either. But you know what does impact a buyer’s decision to buy in that community: The quality of our schools.

Do you think over-crowded schools and mega-portables are a plus for marketing homes in your community? I don’t think so.

This fee was written by the developers, for the developers. They devised the formula and that last BOCC made it law. Ever since, they’ve fought every effort to update the fees – based on their formula – to reflect current school construction costs.

Our children deserve better. Our children deserve to sit and learn in a real classroom, not a shed outside, forced to shuttle into the main building in all kinds of weather just to use the bathroom or sit in an over-crowded cafeteria.

I’m tired of developers getting their way at our expense. If you are too, then please come testify on Tuesday night.


AGENDA for Frederick County, Maryland County Council Meeting (4:30pm) and the Public Hearings (7:00pm) for Tuesday, May 1, 2018 (in the First Floor Hearing Room at Winchester Hall: 12 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland)

Here is the STAFF REPORT for the relevant agenda item: “To Consider Bill No. 18-13 Adequate Public Facilities – Adjustment of School Construction Fees”