School construction

Teton School Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme takes a tour of the new Driggs Elementary School in June. 

KUNA — Kuna School District officials are working to change state law to allow school districts in Idaho to start collecting revenue from impact fees.

Kuna school board members and other district officials have drafted a resolution that may eventually result in school districts statewide becoming eligible to receive impact fees.

While the process to make this happen is difficult, the resolution itself is relatively straightforward: They are simply seeking to change a definition in Idaho law. Currently, the law asserts that impact fees may go to benefit “public facilities,” including water supply production, wastewater collection, roads, flood control, parks, law enforcement and more — but excludes public school facilities.

The trustees are hoping to add the words “public school facilities” to the legal definition of “public facilities” in Idaho. Of the 29 states that have enacted impact-fee-enabling legislation, only 13 allow impact fees to serve school districts. Idaho is not one of those states.

An impact fee is a one-time fee charged to a developer who is building a house or a commercial building. The fee is paid at the time of development and is intended to offset the costs of new amenities necessitated by growth.

Before impact fees could be utilized by school districts, however, the resolution must first be presented at a convention held in November by the Idaho State School Boards Association, during which school board members must vote to put the issue in front of the Idaho Legislature. It would then be crafted into a bill, which the legislature would have to pass into law.

Next, if it were to be passed by the Legislature, the school district would have to work with local entities to discuss the fees and how they would be collected.

The goal of the resolution is to help fund the school district, mitigate the property tax burden of Kuna residents and create a method that encourages growth to pay for growth, according to Adam Bell, the district’s budget and finance manager, and Joy Thomas, vice chair of the Kuna School District board of trustees.

“Currently, we do not have a mechanism for growth to pay for growth,” Bell, who drafted the resolution, said. “This allows for housing coming into the community — that’s impacting our community and adding to our school numbers — to pay a portion of their fair share without it financially overburdening the current taxpayers.”

According to Bell, if Kuna grows the way that it’s projected to grow, the school district might need to ask for a bond every couple of years, which can become increasingly taxing on a community. Receiving impact fees could, potentially, be a way to mitigate the financial burden placed on the community.

For now, developers pay $701 to the fire department, $939 to parks and recreation and $90 to the police department for every new residential home being constructed, according to Lisa Holland, Kuna’s economic development director. New commercial properties pay 35 cents per square foot to the fire department, 4 cents to the police department and nothing to parks and recreation.

Adding public school facilities to the legal definition would require new developments to pay an additional fee, on top of the existing impact fees. If school districts were approved to receive impact fees, they would not take money away from Kuna’s other public agencies.

Even though adding a definition seems relatively simple, the movement still isn’t a “slam dunk,” according to Thomas. Until the convention in November, she’ll be drafting letters to other school boards in the state, as well as some legislators, to help rally support.

The resolution, if passed into law, would make every school district in the state eligible to collect impact fees. 

“This is simple,” Thomas said. “This is just (adding) school districts to the definition, and (giving) us the opportunity to collect them. We’re not taking away from anyone else; we’re just wanting a little bit of extra help.”

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