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November 26, 2022

Fees divvied without district consent

The San Benito County Office of Education has been giving the San Benito High School District increased impact fees from developers before trustees had a public hearing or approved a mandatory study required to justify the new rates.
 “They’re already collecting them without a resolution?” said Trustee Evelyn Muro, incredulously, at Monday’s board meeting.
Developers pay school facility fees or “impact fees” on new construction to help school districts pay for facilities needed to meet growing populations.
Trustees hastily voted to approve the impact fee study during their regular meeting Monday, which means they can officially start taking advantage of the higher rates in 60 days, on July 10, though they’ve been using these rates since last year. Since the high school district shares the fees with elementary school districts within its boundaries, the school will have to pay those sites the difference between what they received at the increased rate and the rates they had justified with their former study.
Government code allows a unified school district to charge up to $3.36 per square foot of residential construction and $0.54 per square foot for some types of commercial construction. Of the fees collected, San Benito High School receives 35 percent of the fees levied on residential construction, or $1.18 per square foot, according to background information in the agenda packet. The remaining $2.18 per square foot goes to the appropriate elementary school district, according to the agenda packet.
The State Allocation Board adjusts the maximum rates of the developer fees in even years, which caused the Hollister School District to fund a study last year so it could justify receiving impact fees at the highest possible rate, explained Gary McIntire, the superintendent of the Hollister School District.
That new rates took effect for the Hollister School District on May 25, 2014 and the San Benito High School District also began benefiting from the increase even though it had not taken the steps to legally justify it.
It’s not unusual for school districts sharing impact fees to approve rate changes at different times, but if one district approves the increase and the other doesn’t, developers immediately begin paying the higher rate and the school that justified the increase collects the difference, explained McIntire.
Typically, the head of the facilities department and the “certainly the superintendent” pay attention to the even years so the district can justify raising its impact fee rates, he said.
John Perales, the superintendent of the San Benito High School District, could not be reached immediately for comment. At the time the Hollister School District approved a study justifying higher impact fees, the high school district was in the middle of leadership changes. Longtime Superintendent Stan Rose left his post in June 2013 and was replaced by Interim Superintendent Mike Robustelli. Eventually, Robustelli stepped down and Dr. William Barr replaced him in the interim position. Perales—who was not yet superintendent when the decisions were made––joined the district in July.
“I think what we had really, is we had some recent turnover there,” McIntire said. “Just new faces and people retire and move on.”

Katie Helland
A staff member edited this provided article.

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