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School inspection fee increase proposal delayed

By JODY ALLARD

Staff Writer

A fee increase for school safety inspections has been placed on hold while the King County Department of Health investigates the potential impact of the proposed fee on local schools.

The Department of Health had proposed raising the fee it charges for safety inspections of new and remodeled schools. The current fee for all schools is $75 plus $50 per hour for time spent reviewing school plans. The proposed fee would charge different rates for inspections conducted at elementary, middle or high schools.

The county Board of Health voted Friday to delay the fee increase until its potential impact on local schools could be examined.

Ž“This is truly a case of government understanding that we needed to take a real good look before imposing a fee that could hurt schools during tight economic times,Ž” said Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds, chairwoman of the board. Ž“Keeping our schools safe continues to be our primary goal, but we donŽ’t want the cost of inspections to lead to the loss of services in schools.Ž”

With local districts coping with state budget cuts and facing the prospect of continued cuts during next yearŽ’s legislative session, administrators say even a small increase in fees has the potential to create problems for Federal Way Public Schools.

Ž“The big message is that weŽ’re all dealing with state budget cuts from last year and this year as well,Ž” said Deb Stenberg, a school district spokeswoman. Ž“Given that weŽ’re dealing with state budget cuts money is very tight. This could have some significance down the line.Ž”

The Federal Way district does not have any projects in the works that would be impacted by the proposed fee increase. However, even the relatively small increase ŽÑ from $280 to more than $1,000 ŽÑ would hit the district hard, district officials say.

Ž“In terms of the bigger picture, in terms of the construction budget, itŽ’s not huge, but itŽ’s also at a time when there are so many budget cuts coming down from the state that every little bit has an impact,Ž” said Stenberg.

Religious and charitable groups operating food establishments and school cafeterias did not fare quite as well, but were offered a reprieve from a proposed rate hike of nearly four times the current fee.

The Board of Health approved an increase in fees for charitable organizations from $65 to $113 per year. The health department had proposed increasing those fees to $250 per year.

Ž“Right now, when government is asking human service organizations to carry an even greater burden, the proposed increase could literally take food out of the mouths of those who need it,Ž” said Edmonds. Ž“We need to find a way to make sure these organizations are paying their fair share, but we wonŽ’t do it at the cost of turning away people who need their services.Ž”

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