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Lawmakers pass ban on new fees

The bill limits impact fees to finance schools. It excludes Pasco County.

By SHELBY OPPEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- In the final hour of their annual session, state lawmakers approved a plan to prevent counties from imposing new impact fees to pay for school construction.

But Pasco County won't be affected by the ban, thanks to a last-minute maneuver by Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor.

Citrus, Hernando and Hillsborough counties are among 15 fast-growing counties that collect school impact fees, which are imposed on developers and passed on to home buyers. The bill approved by lawmakers Friday would cut by almost two-thirds the amount of fees they can collect next year.

If Gov. Jeb Bush signs off on the plans, the state will reimburse those counties for the lost money.

Pasco County currently doesn't impose a school impact fee on developers, but county commissioners are itching to do so. In its original form, the impact fee bill would have blocked that effort and excluded Pasco from receiving state dollars to make up the difference.

On Thursday, Latvala tried and failed to attach an amendment to the bill that would make an allowance for Pasco. On Friday, he succeeded.

After threatening to use his influence to kill the entire bill, Latvala persuaded the Senate and House sponsors of the measure to accept the Pasco exemption.

"This is very important, and I said we'd kill the whole thing if this wasn't in there," said Latvala, who represents parts of Pasco County.

Now, as long as county commissioners actually adopt a new impact fee ordinance, Pasco can charge a limited fee similar to the other 15 counties. The state will make up the rest of what the county would have raised if it had an impact fee during the 1998-99 school year.

Pasco school Superintendent John Long has estimated that the measure will raise between $2-million and $4-million to build new schools and keep pace with student growth.

The school impact fee proposed by Pasco commissioners would add $1,706 to the price of a new single family home. Under the lawmakers' plan, the cost to homebuilders and buyers would drop to about $640, or 37.5 percent of that fee.

The ban on new school impact fees and limits on the old ones are a boon for homebuilders, who have been begging lawmakers to eliminate the fees for years. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have complained that the fees are an unfair source of school construction dollars, since some counties have far less new development than others.


-- Staff writer Kyle Parks contributed to this report.

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