The voted 3 to 2 to temporarily "reduce the education portion of impact fees to zero" for two years retroactively from June 15, 2012, according to a county government news release.
Director of Management and Budget Ted Zaleski said that by law the county can only use the educational impact fees it collects to provide the capacity to serve growth.
Builders of new homes pay impact fees with the goal of having new development pay for itself. The impact fees allow the county to expand services (e.g. build new schools) to meet demand so that both new and existing residents are provided with the same level of service.
Zaleski said there are limits on how long the county can hold collected impact fees and currently there are no appropriate capital projects planned.
Since this money is highly restricted, the county is prohibited from using it for other educational expenses such as increased staff, facility maintenance or improvement or any non-capacity related expenditure, according to a county government news release.
The timing of the fee reduction will not affect the building or completion of the Mount Airy Middle School project.
Commissioner Doug Howard voted against the reduction and cited concern that this change is premature in light of the comprehensive facilities study being conducted by the Board of Education to determine whether any county schools should be closed in light of declining enrollments.
“The study should be concluded before we make this change; if a school or two is closed, available capacity will shrink, then when enrollments increase need for additional school capacity will be heightened simply because we will have fewer schools to accommodate the additional students," Howard said.
The impact fee associated with parks will remain intact.