The San Ramon Valley school board raised residential developer fees Tuesday to support additional or expanded school facilities as new housing brings more families and students to the district.
The new fee levels of $5.61 per square foot of new residential units is a 67% increase above the current rate, which is a base rate set by the state referred to as "Level 1."
State law, however, permits school districts to raise fees under certain circumstances, and if the school district conducts a "needs analysis" to justify the higher rates. These fees, called "Level 2," are calculated by formula and intended to cover half the anticipated costs of construction necessary to serve the children in the new homes.
An Alamo developer's representative, however, questioned the school district's calculations at the school board meeting Tuesday night in Danville, saying district estimates of the amount of new residential construction over the next five years appear "significantly higher than warranted."
Speaking before the board and in a letter submitted to the district the same day, attorney Allan Moore represented a landowner with a proposed residential development project of 35 homes in Alamo.
Moore calculated that new fee levels would add over a half-million dollars in fees for the Alamo project where homes will average 5,000 square feet. A faulty application of the formula results in "an unreasonable burden on residential developers," he argued.
The attorney requested background information on predicted housing construction and the calculation of numbers of new students as a result, and he strongly opposed the board's contemplation of potentially doubling those fees in the future.
Board members agreed that more information should be provided to Moore and others, but they also emphasized the need to protect taxpayers.
"We're not leaving any money on the table that will have to be made up by the taxpayers," said Board Clerk Greg Marvel before the board's unanimous vote.
The possibility of increasing residential development fees to $11.22 could occur, if among other conditions, the State Allocation Board for public school construction certifies that state funds for new school facility construction are no longer available. These "Level 3" fees are intended to equal the entire cost of school facilities for new development.
However, in 2012 the state suspended "Level 3" fees until this December. And even after the suspension is lifted, it is uncertain whether the state would certify that no funding is available.
While setting the local "Level 3" fee levels Tuesday, the school board committed to publicly review the matter before implementation, if and when it were to become a real possibility.
The residential development fees do not apply to the Dougherty Valley, where developers built the schools themselves, in essence a prepayment of developer-impact fees in kind.
However, many of the area schools are presently above intended capacity, and plans to build a new elementary school on developer-donated land aims to alleviate current overcrowding and continuing student population growth.
The school board Tuesday approved use of a previous environmental certification for the new Dougherty Valley elementary school construction, moving the project forward.
Grading and site preparation of the 7.9-acre property, located approximately a half mile southwest of the Dougherty Station Community Center and Library, began earlier this year. The district hopes to begin school construction in May.