Apply school impact fee on developers
I read with dismay a front-page article in the Tuesday, Nov. 29 edition titled, “Referendum likely in Cape district future.” The article says Cape Henlopen School District officials say a capital expense referendum will be necessary in the coming years to build additional schools. Back in February 2020, I wrote a letter to the editor about reducing the school tax burden on Sussex Countians by enacting a school impact fee on builders and developers, similar to what has been on the books in New Castle and Kent counties for decades. I later had a Zoom meeting with the business managers of all seven public school districts in Sussex County, and they were all in favor of the idea.
Then back in May of this year, Ellen Driscoll wrote her first front-page article about this very topic titled, “Lack of school impact fees costs Cape Region.” She devoted the final third of her article on Senate Bill 287 that dealt with this school impact fee issue for all three counties. It made it out of committee, but never got to the full Senate for a vote because of opposition from the Delaware School Boards Association, the Builders and Remodelers Association of Delaware and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Delaware, which sent letters to the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Stephanie Hansen.
There is talk of this bill being revised and reintroduced, but that is up to Sen. Hansen. I write this letter to bring this issue forward in time and directly connect it to what the Cape Henlopen School District has just announced and reported by Ellen Driscoll. I would easily guess that their desire to purchase a 250-acre site, plus soft costs over the years and the construction cost of several schools would get you to $100 million by the time this campus is built out! One school can easily cost $30 million these days! New Castle County has already collected millions of dollars just for school construction over the years. All I am asking is why can’t Sussex have what the other two counties have had? This is a fee on future housing units, which the builders will pass on to future residents. Seriously, what is the problem? I am only asking for parity.