Councilmen Propose Changes To School Mitigation Fees

They would periodically adjusted to keep with school construction costs.


Frederick, Md (KM) Even though the Frederick County Council is in recess until August 20th, work is continuing on several bills. One piece of legislation would periodically adjust the school mitigation fees some residential developers pay.

Councilmen Steve McKay and Jerry Donald are working this legislation. Under the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a developer whose project fails the APFO test for schools has two choices: one would be to delay the development until the county constructs the additional school capacity; or build the additional classrooms for the new students. The last Board of County Commissioners enacted a law to give developers an option to pay a school mitigation fee to help alleviate the overcrowding, and continue building.  The money would go toward school construction.

“Question now is what should the fee be.” says Councilman McKay. “And that’s really what this bill is going to be addressing.” He says the legislation he and Councilman Donald are preparing would re-adjust the fees on a periodic basis to reflect the true cost of school construction.

The ordinance which sets up the mitigation fees has expired, and that option is no longer available to developers. But McKay says there are still some builders who have signed development rights and responsibilities agreements with the county which require them to pay the fees each year. “It is only for those developments that have the right to use this fee option. No other developments can do that right now in Frederick County,” he says.

Since the school mitigation fee was put in place, McKay says it’s only been adjusted once. But school construction costs keep going up and there’s not enough revenue from the fee to pay for these increasing costs. . He says this problem needs to be addressed. “We shouldn’t allow that fee–which already was a bad idea–we shouldn’t allow it to continuously fall behind,” he says. “Because when that happens, who bears the additional cost? The general taxpayer does.”

Efforts in the past to try to adjust this fee on a regular basis met with strong opposition from the building community.

The legislation was introduced in March of this year by Councilmen McKay and Donald, but it was withdrawn because some of their colleagues considered the fee adjustments too high. They agreed to spread out those increases over a two- to three-year period. “In the administration proposed bill, they’re looking to get caught up on the school construction fee based on their formula in one year,” McKay says.

He says he was busy trying to get the data that he needed in order to prepare this bill for introduction, and that’s been a challenge. “It’s just been a little bit of a journey getting the data I needed. That was a little bit more challenging than I expected. in terms of just getting those school construction cost factors,” says McKay.

But he say he has the data, and believes the legislation will be ready to come before the Council in the fall.



By Kevin McManus