Commercial, residential fees to increase after school board vote | TheUnion.com
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Commercial, residential fees to increase after school board vote

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

It was said that the decision was made out of necessity.

On Wednesday night, the Nevada Joint Union High School District Board voted unanimously to increase residential and commercial developer fees, which become effective July 1.

According to district board members and administrators, increasing the fees is one of the few ways local schools can boost revenue.

At the board meeting, district board president Jamie Reeves said she supports the increase because the state is not doing enough to fund education.

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“It’s unfortunate that the state can pit us against each other,” she said. “This is hard for our community. We’re made up of contractors.”

After the decision, developer fees for residential buildings will be $4.08 per square foot, an increase of 66 cents, and commercial buildings will be at 66 cents per square foot, an increase of 11 cents.

The Level 1 developer fee increase, which last happened in 2015, occurred because of the “rapidly increasing costs” of facility renovation, and to allow school districts to participate in matching grant funding, according to district Superintendent Brett McFadden. That is, school districts need to assess themselves at the maximum justified rate in order to receive grant funding for facility changes, according to the superintendent.

According to a justification report by the school district, costs for adequate facilities will exceed $86 million. With Measure B funds providing $47 million and higher developer fees providing $3.5 million over five years, there will still be a “significant (financial) shortfall for future financing” reaching $39 million, according to the report.

The Nevada County Contractors’ Association wrote a letter to the district board that opposed raising developer fees, but was also sympathetic to the board’s decision.

The association, according to its government affairs manager Barbara Bashall, recognized that the school board had no other choice.

“Honestly, the board of trustees had no option but to improve the increase because if they don’t the state won’t give them matching funds,” said Bashall. “They’re between a rock and a hard place.”

At the same time, she acknowledged that the cost of housing is growing more expensive for potential residents, which is driving some people to leave the state.

“Before you put a shovel in the ground, building fees have to be paid that can range anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 for a 2,000-square-foot house,” states the association’s letter to the board. “Currently, the school fee alone is $6,840 and will go to $8,160 if you adopt this increase.”

Bashall said school districts should continue advocating for bond measures in order to pay for facility renovations, acknowledging that Nevada Union High School has “done an outstanding job managing those monies.”

Bashall wasn’t sure how best to move forward to help both schools and home buyers or renters. “There’s just no easy solution,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is.”

Besides grant funding and bond measures, McFadden said school districts don’t have much of a mechanism for increasing revenues, thereby avoiding problems associated with the silent recession. According to WestEd, the silent recession is a situation in which California schools have costs rising faster than their revenues.

McFadden and other school administrators have been pushing the state to increase funding for schools.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” said McFadden. “When you have great schools, you have robust communities.”

Proposition 13, a statewide measure that would have allotted $15 billion in bond money for school facilities, will likely fail, and had low approval from Nevada County residents.

Penn Valley’s school bond measure is also unlikely to pass.

McFadden said he is going to continue pushing for more funding for schools, and continue working with groups like the Nevada County Contractors’ Association, even taking a trip with some of the association’s leaders to Sacramento to provide insight into how little funding school districts receive.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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