Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes Virginia, there is a Sanity Clause

Lower Mount Bethel Township is out in front when it comes to solving traffic and school tax woes! They applied for and received a grant for a Park & Ride and at least one of their residents is asking that developers be charged impact fees to fund additional school construction costs. Kudos.

The Park & Ride may help Forks and College Hill residents by giving them a place to park and ride and thus cut down some of the traffic passing through to get to the bridges. This is good news indeed.

As to the school tax impact fee, Representative Grucela (also from LMBT) has drafted a bill that will allow local municipalities to determine the real effects of development on their school systems and charge appropriate impact fees to the developers - which will lessen needed new school construction costs now imposed on existing property owners. Read Grucela's bill, HB-102.


Donald Dal Maso said...

Hi Folks! Here are some thoughts about School District Construction Assessments: A New Approach

The principles are very simple: Developers of new housing in the School District bring new students into the community who must be placed into new classrooms for the duration of their education. The cost of expanding class space then devolves on the community at large, and property-taxes will therefore increase dramatically. That of course is only part of the cost involved in actually educating the students (more teachers, classroom equipment, etc. are also needed).

Some of you are aware that our State Representative Rich Grucela is working on legislation to require developers to assist in the cost of school construction. Right now that legislation is being rewritten—in the revision, developments for Senior Citizens would be exempt, and other new housing would be assessed some thousands of dollars based on the number of bedrooms and other factors. Realistically however, will this legislation ever get past those Harrisburg lobbyists for corporate developers whose profits and customer base would be affected dramatically?

When I spoke to Rich recently and shared some ideas, his response was direct: he said he had always thought the Townships should be the bodies to get these assessments enacted. So I’m now suggesting what seems very obvious: through their elected supervisors, the three Townships of the School District, in coordination with the fiduciary responsibility and authority of the School Board, should join forces and pass statutes designed to assess developers for the full cost of school construction resulting from their business activities. Note that this doesn’t cover concomitant education costs. But it would mean not less than $27,000 a new student in current dollars, for a start.

The first thing you will hear from some quarters is that “The Townships can’t do that!” My response is, yes they can, if the community wants it. So let me ask, do any of us accept that countless millions should pour into developers’ hands, causing the community to face massive school construction bond issues (many tens of millions of dollars) which in turn will cause property taxes to double or triple almost overnight?

A coherent community consensus is mandatory because any such statute would immediately be challenged in court. The prospect of judicial costs might put some of us off at first, but would we rather spend some hundreds of thousands of dollars (spread among three Townships) on a legal fight about fundamental issues of justice, or would we prefer to submit humbly to debt maintenance on many millions of dollars for school construction, a debt that would endure for many years? This fight is a lot less daunting than the one faced by our revolutionary predecessors, but the issue is similar: An end to the payment of tax monies which allow other, more privileged parties to profit.

A few others and I will be distributing information about these ideas in the months ahead by a variety of means. YOUR comments are the most important factor. If you have questions or want to be heard about this topic, please contact me—

Donald Dal Maso 917-716-9245

Meadow said...

It's about time somebody suggested something concrete to get us all out of this tax spiral to bankruptcy we're in.

I have lived in Forks for 23 years. I have no children, and therefore, have not had a child benefit from the school system. However, I have paid my school taxes every year, either here or somewhere, for over 40 years.

The mention that Senior Citizen developments would be exempt is I suppose, great news for the developers and the new senior citizen residents. Their housing costs will be lower without the developers adding on their school impact fees. (No one seriously thinks the developers are going to pay these fees themselves, do they?)

I'm sure that that exemption is suggested because Seniors wouldn't be putting any children into the school system - right? Hello? I've have already paid into their kids education for over 40 years! In fact, if the "Senior Citizen" developments declare a 55 and older age requirement, I've probably paid for the education of some of the very people who qualify for this development!

What about a break for those of us who have never placed a financial burden on the school system? Where is the tax break for those of us who have lived here for decades and made the Township the wonderful place it used to be? Why are we so worried about the new residents who arrive, take advantage of everything the Township offers, and leave to further their careers elsewhere? Where is the concern from our elected officials for US?

Oh that's right - never mind. We'll be moving out of the Township anyway, because we can no longer afford to live in "New Jersey West". How sad.

Donald Dal Maso said...

Hi Meadow. My wife and I also do not have children but we don't object to paying school taxes (if they are spent well!) as we want the next generation to have the same opportunities for an education that we have had. Also, a young person who learns to think for himself or herself is going to vote more intelligently.

What I don't accept is that school taxes become de facto subsidies for the profits of devlopers, which is what happends when taxpayers have to build school facilities to house new students coming from new housing.

I hope you will find a way to live as you wish in the Forks community without having crushing tax burdens that benefit derelopers. If the community achieves a consensus about this, those develops WILL have to do something about public school costs related to their businesses.

Happy Holidays! Best, Don

Meadow said...

Happy Holidays Don,

Just to be clear, I do not oppose school taxes in general. I too believe that children should have all that they need educationally to succeed and excel in this world.

I do believe however, that at some point there should be an end to some of the taxes paid by our older citizens.

We as a society should not sacrifice the well being of our older people, so that our young have whatever we can dream up for them. (For example - artificial turf at Easton High School.) And make no mistake, that is what's happening.

We will not solve this problem today. But if we can start a few minds turning over the facts, perhaps there's a solution in our near future. Keep up the good work!

Here's wishing you and yours the best of the Holiday Season.


Donald Dal Maso said...

Meadow, I am impressed by your comment about an end or at least limitation to school taxes paid by seniors or folks on fixed income. I had never considered that and it makes sense. Is it fair to require seniors to sell homes they own outright because the property tax burden becomes so great? I don't think that a modest "rebate" to these folks, who have worked their whole lives, begins to address the issue.

Let's add your point to the discussion. And as for that artificial turf, I wonder if the students at Easton wouldn't mind giving up such things in favor of being listened to more carefully by adults who want to hear what students say they really need to learn and live better lives.

It's a FAC said...

There's a meeting tonight (1/9/06) in Upper Mount Bethel Township to discuss/explain the concept of local governments charging school impact fees. The weather's good and unless you are planning to attend the Forks Zoning Hearing Board meeting at 7:30 for the CVS variance request (Uhlers & Sullivan Trail), why not attend?