Hiruy Hadgu started an online petition titled “Charge Developers Market Rate School Impact Fees; Stop Subsidizing Their Profits” on change.org and that petition has reached over 1,100 online signatures so far (actually 1,132 as of this post).

Here is the text of the online petition:

Protect your hard-earned tax-payer dollars by demanding developers pay their fair share for school construction costs.

The Howard County State Delegation has the power to protect your hard earned dollars in January of 2019.

In 2004, the Maryland State Legislature enacted a law that enabled Howard County to charge developers “School Impact Fees”. A fee to help pay for new schools due to increase in residential development.

The fee was set at an arbitrary value of $1 per square foot. There is no analysis that demonstrates this fee was market rate. The 2004 also effectively tied the County’s hands from adjusting the fee in the future.

While the cost of schools could be a minimum of $60,000 PER NEW STUDENT, the county has been collecting an average of $5,000  (2017 number) or less PER NEW HOME since 2004. In contrast, Montgomery County charges developers $27,000 PER NEW HOME in school impact fees.

This fee does not get passed on to the home buyer (an argument often used by developers).

Since 2004, the County has approved a minimum of 1,700 homes PER YEAR, or nearly 24,000 NEW HOMES in 14 years. At this rate, the county has forgone nearly nearly $530 MILLION.

THAT IS $500 MILLION THAT COULD HAVE BEEN USED TO BUILD NEW SCHOOLS.

If the money is not collected from the developer, then WHO PAYS?

YOU, THE TAXPAYER.

Your taxpayer dollars have been used to cover expenses owed by developers for 14 years.

YOU HAVE BEEN SUBSIDIZING DEVELOPER PROFITS.

Additionally, the State Legislature imposed an artificial limitation on the County to PREVENT THE COUNTY COUNCIL from raising fees. Until today, the law only allows the State Legislature to change the fees, while other Maryland counties do not have their hands tied.

WHY ARE HOWARD COUNTY’S HANDS TIED?

Once, the State Legislature is back in session in January, 2019, it can immediately raise the fees to MARKET RATE and provide the County local control for future adjustments.

This petition asks our Howard County State Delegation two things:

Raise the fees to market rate and charge developers at least the amount charged by our neighboring Montgomery County. A fee of $8 per square foot is reasonable. It will amount to $24,000, per 3,000 sq. ft. home.

Also, give Howard County local control to raise fees for future adjustments.

I am always a bit uneasy with online petitions…you never know who is really signing the petition or where they are from…but more than 1,100 signatures could be pretty significant and something the local Howard County Delegation should look into as they move forward with the upcoming legislation.

I agree that Howard County should have local control in order to raise (or lower) fees in the future. As far as how much the fees should be…I will let others debate that idea…I am not enough of an expert to say what that number should be…but based on many conversations had over the past few years…it does sound like it should be higher than what it is today.

Here is a link to the petition:  https://www.change.org/p/howard-county-state-delegation-charge-developers-market-rate-school-impact-fees-stop-subsidizing-their-profits?fbclid=IwAR3AtIgrEVtNhCa_qzD2WS4vbGdbF7nnMf2I9yEfg8TYOI7CUFW03NLavP0

Do you have an opinion on this topic? Let me know in the comments or in the comments on Facebook.

Scott E

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