Bonney Lake City Council poised to raise school impact fees

Bonney Lake Elementary recently had a series of capital improvements completed and was re-opened for its 50th anniversary this past fall.

Even as they look for ways to reduce their already-high building costs, the Bonney Lake City Council seems poised to pass an increase on school impact fees.

The increase was requested by the Sumner School District, though the city council in Bonney Lake is expected to be more than originally requested.

Presently, the city’s school impact fee, assessed on all single-family homes built in the city, is $1,300. The amount was set by the district and the money, though collected by the city, goes directly to the district.

If passed by the council, the new fee will be $4,488.

Officials from the school district were on hand at the council’s May 8 workshop to discuss the measure. Initially, the district requested an increase to $3,005, consistent with an increase at the county level, but council members noticed a table included with the request showing that while the district was requesting the increase to $3,005, internal calculations showed a fee of $4,488 was necessary to meet district needs, as figured by their capital improvement plan.

Citing their support of schools and their desire to make sure the school district gets what they need, the mayor and council offered to make the city’s impact fees the full amount.

“We know that it’s very important to our schools, that we value tremendously,” Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said.

Councilman Jim Rackley also defended the higher impact fees by pointing out that money not collected from building fees – the people that create the additional demand on district services – must be made up by the taxpayers already living in the district.

“It’s a transference of cost from the new person creating the demand to the broad taxpayers,” he said. “That’s we were are so adamant … in making growth pay for itself.”

“No one likes high impact fees, but when you can justify it like this (it makes sense),” Mayor Neil Johnson said.

Superintendent Craig Spencer thanked the council for the consideration and said the district would not leave money on the table.

“Even at $4,000 for impact fees, it takes an awful lot of houses to build a $15 million school,” Spencer said.

Not all members of the council were immediately swayed to the larger number, however, and requested to see the district’s capital improvement plan before a vote.

The council in April temporarily reduced the city’s traffic impact fee, though a measure to reduce sewer system development fees did not pass. Bonney Lake total impact fees are approximately $20,000 and among the highest in Pierce County.