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Mount Vernon City Council approves higher school impact fees

December 22, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council on Wednesday voted 4-3 to increase fees that go toward funding school construction.

Under the new fee structure, construction of each new single-family home is subject to an impact fee of $9,421 — $2,763 more than the current rate.

“We recognize our (fee) is a large increase over 2016,” said Robert Coffey, school district board president, referring to the last time impact fees were assessed.

The Mount Vernon School District requested that fee increase in September.

Coffey said the increase is needed because of how steeply construction costs have risen in recent years and a continuous 1 percent growth in student population.

School districts assess impact fees to supplement school bonds in funding new construction, shifting the cost burden off of residents’ property taxes.

The fee is collected by the city on behalf of the district.

The district uses a formula — widely employed by other districts in the state — to determine the number of students added by a new housing unit and how much those students cost the district, District Superintendent Carl Bruner said previously.

Councilman Joe Lindquist, who voted in favor of the district’s fee increase, said he trusts the results of the formula and thought the district wouldn’t ask for the fee increase if it wasn’t justified.

“I feel like they’ve done their homework, and I’m willing to give them what they ask for,” he said ahead of the vote.

Councilwoman Melissa Beaton, who voted against the increase, said it would stand in opposition to the city’s goal of reducing burdens on development.

She referenced a decision by the council in July to reduce the city’s transportation impact fees in order to make building more affordable.

“We all play a role in trying to make it easier to build (housing),” she said.

Under the new fee structure, multifamily development is subject to a $1,134 fee, or a $250 increase over the current rate.

Denise Stiffarm, a lawyer hired by the district, said at the meeting this is because apartment units generate fewer students compared to single-family homes.

Also included was an exemption for affordable housing, granting relief from the fee for units reserved for lower income households.