Schools, libraries, fire win in impact fee vote Other fees will remain suspended

INVERNESS — It was a good day for the political veteran and the newcomer.

Both Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel and Sheriff Michael Prendergast received favorable votes Tuesday to restore impact fees.

Himmel, whose political experience goes back to 1996, convinced county commissioners to reinstate the $1,261 schools impact fee, despite the district’s report that showed the earliest need for a new school is more than 10 years away.

And Prendergast, elected in November to his first term in office, successfully argued on behalf of the $350 impact fee for fire services, saying the Suncoast Parkway will bring growth and traffic that will necessitate a new fire station on Cardinal Street.

Impact fees were suspended for two years in February 2015. The county commission in January extended the suspension until May 12 and then, in the meantime, reinstated transportation fees to raise revenue for the second phase of widening County Road 491.

Along with schools and fire, the county commission also reinstated the $268 library impact fee because most of the money raised is used to pay debt on the Floral City Library. Without the impact fee, County Administrator Randy Oliver said, the annual $66,000 debt payments would come from already-tight library millage dollars.

Four other impact fees will stay suspended for two years: parks ($675), public buildings ($250), law enforcement ($267), and EMS ($41).

That brings the total impact fee for single-family homes to $3,576. The changes will take place in May after an April public hearing.

While the votes on each fee were mixed, Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith voted no on reinstating any of the impact fees. Smith said the county had not shown a direct correlation between the fee and projects necessitated by growth.

The school district report showed projects at Floral City Elementary and the Roger Weaver Educational Complex.

A planned school in Pine Ridge, however, is not projected until 11 to 20 years from now, the report states. Impact fees must be spent within 10 years of collection, Oliver said.

Himmel said schools are getting closer to student capacity, noting that rezoning is taking place this spring to alleviate crowding issues at Pleasant Grove Elementary and Inverness Primary schools.

“We know growth will impact our schools dramatically,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day or the next day.”

Prendergast offered a similar theme, saying that funds from impact fees will help the sheriff’s office fire rescue plan for a new fire station.

“If we prepare, the challenges of the future will be met now,” he said.

Board Chairman Scott Carnahan, who co-chaired with former Sheriff Jeff Dawsy a committee to look at fire service costs, said he thought fire rescue could shift priorities that will pay for future needs.

“You have a very, very nice budget when it comes to fire services,” Carnahan told Prendergast. “We’re covered right now.”

Commissioner Brian Coleman said a new fire station will improve response times for fire calls.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

http://www.chronicleonline.com/content/schools-libraries-fire-win-impact-fee-vote

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