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NKSD may suffer from recension of impact fees

POULSBO — As the Kitsap County Commissioners rethink their June 2003 decision to increase county impact fees, the North Kitsap School District is hoping to find a way to keep the board from changing its mind.

Impact fees, which charge developers $1,973 per new household built currently, were designed to offset costs the county must pay in providing roads, parks and schools for new residents. The commissioners voted 2-1 in June to increase the fees to $2,897 beginning Jan. 1, 2004.

NKSD Executive Director of Finance and Operations Nancy Moffatt sent a letter to Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent requesting that the board retain the fee increase and outlined her recommendation at an informal community meeting Dec. 3 at the district’s offices. Moffatt and district officials argue that the impact fee increase fairly offsets new development growth costs.

“Where we are now is if we rescind (the June decision), then we’re back at the 1992 (impact fee) level,” said Moffatt. “Yet we know building costs have inflated and the Consumer Price Index has increased since then.”

Moffatt said Commissioner Lent, who voted in favor of increasing fees in June, is said to be pondering a vote change pending comments during a hearing at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in the President’s Hall of Kitsap County Fairgrounds. North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen also voted for the impact fee increase while South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel voted against them.

Moffatt’s letter to Lent restates the district’s position on increasing impact fees.

“The availability of good educational facilities and strong educational programs is seen as critical to the marketability of any new homes constructed within the district ... Impact and mitigation fees collected to date have provided the district with the necessary resources to purchase portable classroom space required for enrollment and program needs,” Moffatt wrote in the letter.

She went onto say that although current impact fees help purchase “portables,” a long-term solution to build permanent facilities is needed.

“We must overcome our dependence on portable classroom units in order to proactively provide quality facilities for our students ... Rescinding the impact fee structure as adopted in June clearly increases the likelihood of districts continuing to deal with enrollment growth by purchasing more and more portables.”

Michael Svardh, a real estate broker for Northkitsap.com, was also be present at the Dec. 3 meeting. Svardh said he worries increased impact fees will stall growth in North Kitsap by raising the price of homes.

“As the price of homes goes up, the volume of homes goes down,” said Svardh.

Val Torrens, a concerned citizen, said she believes no matter what the cost, developers won’t like rising fees.

“The short, dirty answer for developers is if it doesn’t cost anything — they love it,” said Torrens.

Despite his position, Svardh said he was more in favor of a method in which impact fees are computed directly by how much the cost of living has increased in North Kitsap. Since 1992, the Consumer Price Index has increased 39 percent — therefore, Svardh said an idea might be to increase the 1992 levels by that percentage.

Concerned citizen Mary Anderson, who lives near the property of the proposed Kingston High School site, said she believes the push for higher impact fees is related to rising costs of the new high school.

“They’re going to need impact fees to pay for it,” Anderson said.

Moffatt said the fee increases were not needed to help construct the new high school but added that higher impact fees could be used for the project and would free up funds from the bond budget and state matching funds.

Moffatt said she hopes ultimately common ground can be found in the issue of impact fees.

“I don’t think this is a question of developers versus school districts,” Moffatt said. “(NKSD Supt.) Gene Medina has talked about this being not a ‘them versus us’ issue — it is an ‘us’ issue.”

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