Impact Fees

We have heard school district officials bemoan the fact that the City of Seattle does not collect impact fees (assessments on new development to offset the costs of additional demands on public resources) for schools. They are, as usual, crying crocodile tears. The District is authorized to assess their own impact fees and they simply have not bothered to do it.

Per RCW 43.21C.060, school districts can assess impact fees. The WAC regarding the Growth Management Act also clearly allows school districts to require new developments to set aside land for schools (WAC 365-196). The King County Code (21A.43) also not only allows impact fees for schools, it appears to almost require them.

The school district could assess an impact fee that would require developers to provide a portion of the cost of building new schools. They simply have not bothered to do it. This not only matters with regard to the development downtown, but to the planned development in Lake City and the planned development in the Roosevelt neighborhood and all of the planned developments around the light rail and transit.


Unknown said…
Considering they are going to start drilling the tunnel right next to Roosevelt in the next several months, night and day for years, yes, the district should ask for mitigation.

I live in that neighborhood and I dread it. I can't imagine being a student at Roosevelt for the next several years.
Anonymous said…
Pardon my obtuseness, are you saying that SPS can DIRECTLY levy a tax, the impact fee on new developments in the city of Seattle, DIRECTLY? I thought only the City could impose and collect taxes. If they can do it, it would be soooooo politically 'problematic', although completely needed and rational, that I doubt they would. But still, can you confirm this, because if so, it will change the way I proceed to lobby/negotiate with the parties involved. Right now, I go, "cap in hand", begging the City to put in school fees to developers. But, if 'we' technically don't need them to do this for us, well, that's a pretty big stick in my hand that would displace my cap.

Hoping for fairness, but not optimistic
Anonymous said…
Arizona used to have these, but the GOP legislators (mainly Jan the idiot Brewer) gave gifts to all of the builders and construction businesses by freezing them in 2009. School districts - and all city/community services - took a major hit.

Anonymous said…
One more example of the fiscal cluelessness of SPS and their enabling board. Sherry Carr, "let's run SPS like Boeing" liked Dr Maria because of ???? And nothing has changed. How do we change this?

Mr White
James Madison said…
I've read the statute a few times. Where is the language authorizing the district to impose impact fees on developers?

The second sentence reads "Any governmental action may be conditioned or denied pursuant to this chapter:..."

Isn't this statute simply saying that, if there is going to be some governmental action, they could use this chapter SEPA to condition or deny the requested action?

When a developer or other entity is undertaking some project they have to go to certain agencies and obtain the necessary permits and approvals. Often they must create an Environmental Impact Statement.

But developers don't have to go to school districts for any "governmental action."

You certainly don't think that developers should be required to go through some review process by local school districts or school boards do you?

So, no Charlie, I think you are way off base here. The District cannot go around imposing taxes and fees on developers.

Not an example of cluelessness of the SPS but rather of unsound legal analysis by plucking a statute and reading it in isolation.

mirmac1 said…
Jim Madison,

Interesting. Didn't Highline do something like this, but not call it an "impact fee" when it sucked millions of our property tax dollars, via the Port of Seattle, for the mega third runway project.

It's possible. Why should a district claiming poverty, like SPS, be required to suck it up to provide amenities to Paul Allen etc?
James Madison said…
No. Highline did not require the port to provide those sums. Nor did Highline condition the issuance of any approvals or permits on the payment by the port of any fees.

Allen, and any other developer, are often (always?) required to pay fees, including impact fees, as a condition of getting government approval.

I believe King County imposes impact fees and requires infrastructure improvements (eg sidewalks, crosswalks etc) that benefit the school district.

Also, through development you increase the value of the property which increases the property taxes generated by the parcel.

If your beef is that the impact fees are inadequate your remedy is to get involved in the particular projects SEPA process. You could also approach the King County counsel and work with them to increase impact fees in general.

But I would wonder if the increasing property tax revenue does not mitigate some of your concerns.
Anonymous said…
Look at what Kent did this past August:

Central Dist. taxpayer
Charlie Mas said…
I'm not a lawyer and I don't pretend to be one.

Some of the laws regarding impact fees speak exclusively to counties, cities and towns, such as RCW 82.02.050, while others include local agencies and municipal corporations.

It is abundantly clear from any reading of the law that the City of Seattle would have been - and is - well within its rights to collect impact fees for schools and we all know that the City has not done that.

All of this blah-blah-blah about the District kicking in ANY money for a downtown school or any capital expenditure in a neighborhood where the city has permitted growth is an effort to distract our attention away from how the City has shirked its responsibilities to the families, the students, and the District.
mirmac1 said…
You are correct in that Highline did not exact a "fee". What is (not) surprising is how one public agency gifted public funds to another public agency, with no correlation to any direct impact (see recent audit of Port of Seattle). That was easy because it wasn't their money, it was ours. But heaven forbid developers "gift" funds to our school district. It might eat into their profits or something!
James Madison said…
Actually, Charlie, as soon as you identify and interpret a statute you are doing precisely what lawyers do. So you are acting like a lawyer.

When you make pronouncements like this which leads others to conclude that the District is "clueless" again, you are doing a great disservice.

The City of Kent imposes impact fees for its schools. I would assume many cities impose impact fees for their schools. Seattle probably does too. I just can't find the specific code provision.

Authority to impose impact fees comes from RCW 82.02.050.

A municipality need not spend impact fees on infrastructure that specifically benefits a particular development; instead, the impact fees need only provide a general benefit to the entire area. Pavlina v. City of Vancouver (2004) 122 Wash.App. 520, 94 P.3d 366.

"School facilities" are specifically included within RCW 82.02.090 which would give the municipality the authority to spend impact fees on "school facilities."

It is also important to note that the impact fees have to be proportionate to the actual impact the development is going to cause.

If you are going to build a large commercial warehouse, what is the proportionate impact of the development on a local school or school district? Probably not very much. It won't add students to the school or school district. There might be some traffic mitigation issues.

Impact fees are not taxes in the sense that they are to generate additional revenue for the local governmental entities imposing them.

They should be a zero sum game.
kellie said…
Over many years, I have testified about the weakness in the districts enrollment planning models. Complaint number one from me has been the usage of aggregate enrollment numbers to decisions. In other words, all of the closures rounds were driven by management looking at total enrollment, rather than looking at enrollment by cohort (each grade) and region.

I don't blame the city for not collecting impact taxes. When the message from the district has been "Enrollment is shrinking. We must close schools." why would any entity charge extra taxes to developers for new schools, when the current schools are empty enough to close.

It is possible that much of this development was done with the nobel idea of filling schools. I have no way to prove or disprove that.

That said, there is now clear evidence that development has created the need for new schools in Lake City, West Seattle, Queen Anne and probably other areas. It is time for a new conversation.
Charlie Mas said…
One of the under-enrolled schools had been High Point. High Point, however, was not closed because the city was re-developing the High Point housing project. Now West Seattle Elementary (formerly High Point) is a crowded school.

The District was aware enough of the redevelopment of High Point and New Holly to include those in their enrollment projections.

The City can actively work to encourage families to move and live downtown but, at the same time, they have a responsibility to provide the supporting infrastructure, including schools. The City could have done that but chose not to do so. They broke it; they can bloody well fix it.

I'm not exactly sure why the District can require impact fees in the context of SEPA, but it looks to me like they can. And, if they can, they should.
kellie said…
@ Charlie,

I agree with your assessment of the City. If the City wants a downtown school, as part of their development plan, marvelous, they can pay for it.

As for High Point, I honestly don't know if the development was calculated into the enrollment projections or if "potential development" was a great official reason to not close the school.

Whenever I prepare projections, my footnotes on the projections are often longer and more complex that the spreadsheets. I was trained (as most people that need to defend numbers) that any assumption needs to be foot noted.

All of the "math" in a projection should be visible. Because there isn't a footnote on a projection that says "This number in West Seattle near High Point is deviating from our standard calculation because of X" there is no way to really know. IMHO, I don't think there was a formal consideration of development data in the High Point decision.

Rather I think there was a "we don't want to do this and here is a great reason." This is because if the same development logic had been applied, Viewlands would never have been closed. The development density in the north end is impressive. The Pierre Property development alone in Lake City could easily generate enough families for a school and that is only one example of development designed for families.
Charlie Mas said…

Here's what I see about the "downtown" elementary.

1. Lowell is less than 1.5 miles (driving - not as the crow flies) from Denny Park. There are about 200 seats available there.

2. T T Minor is less than 1.5 miles (driving - not as the crow flies) from Denny Park. There could be about 300 seats available there.

3. Bailey-Gatzert is across the street from one of the "downtown" census tracts.

4. The Downtown Seattle Association has been very inconsistant in their definition of "downtown" and their numbers are therefore suspect.

5. The City has been encouraging people to move downtown but has not collected impact fees to partially offset the capital improvements in public resources that residential inflow requires. This is the City's failure and the City should address it.

6. It may be that the school district could collect some impact fees in the course of a SEPA review of residential projects even if the City does not. The District hasn't done this.

7. People who move next door to the airport shouldn't whine about the noise. People who move into a school desert shouldn't whine about the absence of schools. I see a lot of whining, and not a lot of effort to create solutions.

8. BEX IV cannot pay for everything we need, let alone everything we want. It is a matter of priorities. Actual children who are already in our schools but don't even have a seat come first. Actual children who are already in our schools who don't have a safe seat come second. Children who we know are coming who won't have a seat come third. The downtown community consists of people who have a seat available for their child but it's five blocks further away than they would prefer. That's just not a high enough priority or urgency to get any BEX IV money.

9. There is development planned in a number of other neighborhoods around Seattle. What effort is being made to create schools for those neighborhoods? Why isn't the mayor trying to create deals in those neighborhoods - or at least collecting impact fees?
mirmac1 said…
I'm curious James Madison, are you a lawyer?

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