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Chester County Press

Avon Grove School District officials concerned about impact fees

06/04/2018 12:53PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Penn Township recently adopted an ordinance establishing a traffic impact fee on any new commercial or residential developments or projects that create a traffic impact within designated transportation service areas in the township. The collection of the impact fees would allow the township to cover expenses for any road improvements that might be necessary as a result of the developments.

The transportation service area maps out parts of the township where new construction could have an impact on overall traffic patterns. The impact fees will be calculated using the number of new trips per day during weekday afternoon peak hours that the new development creates.

The Avon Grove School Board recently decided to construct a new high school on the Sunnyside Road parcel that the district owns. A new high school will create a lot of new trips per day during weekday afternoon peak hours—and consequently the new traffic impact fee could have a big impact on the school district in the form of one, large bill.

At the May 29 Avon Grove School Board meeting, one of the issues that school board member Jeffrey Billig highlighted in his Facilities Committee report was the potential costs of the traffic impact fee.

Billig noted that the township estimated the school district's obligation, as a result of the traffic impact fee, to be nearly $800,000.

“Dialogue will continue as to the appropriateness of that number,” Billig said.

In other business at the meeting, the school board adopted, by a vote of 4-3, Resolution 18-15, which states that “…Avon Grove School District undertakes to move forward with facilities projects and related implementation as approved by Board of School Director resolutions on April 26, 2018 the Board hereby resolves that to the extent any state reimbursements are received by the District through PlanCon, or any other state-approved system of reimbursements in support of these facilities projects, the administrative staff shall then propose, in the corresponding budget, a tax reduction (millage credit of equal value against the planned tax increases.”

Essentially, since the school district is undertaking construction and renovation projects that could cost $115 million or more, this resolution encourages—but does not require—a future school board and the Avon Grove administration to use the full amount of PlanCon reimbursements to reduce the local effort to pay for the projects.

The board was divided on the resolution—some supported it because it sends a message to taxpayers that the board understands the enormous investment that the community has made with the planned school projects, while others opposed the resolution because the current board shouldn’t be making decisions that limit the options of future boards, and because the resolution, as written, is aspirational—it doesn’t necessarily obligate future boards to follow it.

School board member Bill Wood noted that there is already a responsibility for elected officials to keep taxes as low as possible, so the resolution isn't necessary.

“I don't see this resolution having much of an effect,” Wood said. “Any future board can still raise to the Act 1 Index limit, regardless of this resolution.”

Daniel Carsley, the school district's director of business administration pointed out that the PlanCon process is set up to reduce the local effort that is needed to build or renovate school buildings, so from his perspective it might be redundant to adopt the resolution.

School board member John Auerbach said that he favored the resolution because it makes it clear that, at a future time when revenues come in to the school district through the PlanCon process, those revenues would “only be dedicated to offsetting the tax burden” on residents.

“I propose that we actually commit to doing that versus simply asking for a budget variation that can and almost certainly would be ignored in favor of spending the additional revenue on something else,” Auerbach said.

Auerbach offered an amendment to the resolution adding a statement at the end that would read, “The board further resolves that the recommended tax credit is accepted as part of the budget process.” The board voted against the amendment, 4-3. But when the board voted on the original resolution, it was approved, 4-3.

Billig voted in favor of the resolution, he said, because he viewed it as an aspirational statement—that the district would, in fact, want to be in a financial position where it could take the full amount of the reimbursements for the projects and use them in such a way that taxes would not need to be increased to the Act 1 Index limit.

There were two special presentations during the meeting: One highlighted the achievement of Avon Grove Intermediate School sixth-grader Ella Bartnick, who was recognized for winning the Chester County Intermediate Unit's third annual shoe design contest. The contest was part of the Chester County Intermediate Unit's months-long campaign to increase awareness and acceptance of people with all abilities. Another presentation featured a video showcasing a few of Avon Grove High School's top student-athletes. The video, which was prepared by students in the high school, included interviews with a few of the athletes who talked about the opportunities that they had while at Avon Grove.

The school board will meet again on Thursday, June 7 when it is expected to finalize the budget. In June, the school board will also hold a series of meetings to interview construction management firms and architectural firms for work on the new high school project.

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]

SLUG: Avon Grove May 29