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‘Impact fees’ in Kent impact schools in Federal Way

The Federal Way School District is keeping a close eye on a potential policy change in Kent.

The situation illustrates the financial effect on school districts that overlap with a neighboring city’s boundaries.

The City of Kent is in the midst of deciding whether to change its impact fee collection schedule.

Currently, when developers begin the construction process, their costs include impact fees. These fees are meant to mitigate the impact of development on the area, including a percentage that goes toward impact on the school district. The impact fees are collected at the time of the permit.

However, the City of Kent is considering changing the time of collection for fees for traffic, water and drainage and for the school impact fee.

“The impact is on our ability to respond to growing populations. We have no money to plan for accommodating students,” said Sally McLean, chief financial officer for Federal Way schools.

That area is already home to the fullest schools in the district. Three of the four elementary schools in Kent have over 500 students, Totem Middle School is full and Thomas Jefferson High School has 2,000 students, when it was originally meant for 1,500. Those schools utilize portable classrooms, and the school district needs ample time to secure working portables to accommodate students.

Behind the change

The motivation behind the change is to help spur growth and development in the city.

“We were looking for ways to help this industry get back up on its feet,” said Ben Wolters, Kent’s director of economic and community development.

Rather than pay the fee at the time of the permit, a lien would be taken out on the property and the developer must pay the lien at the time of sale.

“This would allow the builder to use the proceeds of the sale,” Wolters said.

However, the concern that the Federal Way School District has is the timing.

“(The impact fee) pays for the impact of new kids in the district, either to adjust the classrooms or for portables,” spokeswoman Diane Turner said. “There wouldn’t be the time to make any adjustments in the neighboring school so they can accommodate the new influx.”

For Federal Way, currently they would get $3,832 in impact fees per single family home built. That is within the same range they have collected for the last four years, McLean said. Each year the amount changes and is worked through a formula that is different for every jurisdiction.

The issue had been discussed in committee meetings several times, including a public hearing on May 10. The council was expected to vote on the issue May 18, but the vote was postponed.

If the measure passes, the staff’s recommendation is to change the impact fee collection until Dec. 30, 2013.

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