Overcrowded classrooms make it harder to teach and learn. Schools in North Seattle continue to burst at the seams even as regressive taxes keep rising. Yet our Seattle Mayors and City Councilmembers consistently dodge a key source of money for our schools: Developer Impact Fees.
Although we are accustomed to blaming our State officials in Olympia for poor policy and funding decisions for our public schools (much of which is still warranted), our city officials also have tools they refuse to use.
Impact Fees, already authorized by State law, enable cities to charge for-profit developers a fee to help construct and renovate schools, fire stations, parks, and nearby streets to mitigate the impact the new real estate developments have on communities. Impact Fees could help relieve overcrowded classrooms. Savvy city leaders collect Impact Fees throughout Washington State (including other Puget Sound cities) and the nation. Why not in Seattle?
Asked at the December 6, 2017 meeting of Wallingford Community Council about charging developers Impact Fees, Councilmember Rob Johnson replied lamely, “I don’t know the status of impact fees.” Yet he’s the chair of the City’s land use committee that would craft such fees. He suggested checking in with Councilmember Mike O’Brien. O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw surprised supporters of impact fees by penning an Op Ed in the Seattle Times along with affordable housing expert Lisa Herbold called “Seattle is Overdue for Developer Impact Fees.” But that was back in July 2017 and nothing has happened — even with the opportunity to direct policy or research funding during the Oct-Nov budget process.
This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is a FORUM ON SCHOOL FUNDING, organized by local Parent-Teacher-Student Associations (PTSAs).
- WHAT: School Funding Forum
- WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 3, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
- WHO: you, your fellow parents, grandparents, guardians and others in the neighborhood passionate about fully funding public schools
- HOSTED BY: local PTSAs
- WHERE: Hamilton Middle School 1610 N. 41st Street, WA 98103.
At this meeting, we need to collectively ask, “Why have city leaders failed to collect $$$ from Developer Impact Fees?” Is it because real estate developers contribute to their political campaigns and favorite ballot measures?
Here is the official invitation to the meeting from the PTSAs: “You may have heard rumors of recent new funding for Washington state’s schools and restrictions by the state on the use of local levies. At the same time, Seattle Public Schools forecasts a budget shortfall, with increasingly overcrowded schools and even basic projects like refurbishing Lincoln High School remaining underfunded.
Join us at 7:30pm on January 3rd in the Hamilton International Middle School library to hear from our local legislators on how Seattle will be impacted by recent and upcoming legislation, and what you can do about it.
Panelists will include:
- Washington State Senator Jamie Pedersen (District 43)
- Washington State Representative Nicole Macri (District 43)
- Seattle Public Schools Director Rick Burke (District 2)
- Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson (NE Seattle)
We’ll hear from each member of the panel as well as take questions from parents…”
For budget news and views from the Seattle School District, CLICK HERE.
Later this year, city leaders will be asking voters to renew the property taxes that fund both the Families & Education Levy and the highly successful Seattle Preschool Program. Before asking existing homeowners AND renters to increase regressive property taxes again, City Hall should enact Impact Fees to show that we are leveraging all available resources. It’s an equity issue: investors benefiting from the city’s growth should contribute their fair share. As Nikkita Oliver deftly framed the issue earlier this year, real estate investors are people, too, and of course they should care about education and infrastructure. Investors should want the people for whom they build their buildings to enjoy healthy communities. It’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do. Moreover, it’s important to note that the blame/burden rests not with for-profit developers who naturally strive to build profitable projects while trying to influence an unpredictable City Hall. The responsibility rests with City Hall officials — those serving the public must show the political will to craft a fair deal for the public.
MORE “MEETINGS TO CONNECT”: Upzoning Your Neighborhood. As mentioned in our Holiday Edition, City Hall plans to upzone your neighborhood whether you want it or not. To tell City Hall how you feel about it, CLICK HERE for our article. The upzone meetings are Jan 30, 2018 at Hamilton Middle School and Feb 28, 2018 at Whitman Middle School, both at 6 p.m. Engage with your neighbors!