Archive for Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Waiving fee right action

School district’s request should be reconsidered by Basehor City Council

September 24, 2008

You have to wonder what the Basehor City Council is thinking.

Earlier this month, Basehor-Linwood School District officials went to the council to request the city waive building permit fees related to construction of the district's new intermediate elementary school.

The fees aren't chickenfeed; they total nearly $70,000 - a princely sum for any city of Basehor's size. The biggest portion is $43,000, in the form of a transportation excise tax, which is intended to help the city recover costs of road improvements related to the construction.

That's all well and good. City taxpayers should not be asked to carry the burden of picking up the cost of new infrastructure for every new development in town

But in this case, it's those same taxpayers who are picking up the tab anyway. The owner of every property within the Basehor city limits also is a patron of the Basehor-Linwood School District. As such, part of their annual property taxes goes to fund the district's expenses, including the costs of the $39.9 million bond issue that is paying for the intermediate school, a new middle school and other improvements throughout the district.

It's not as cut and dried as taking from one pocket and putting it in another, either.

As Superintendent Bob Albers pointed out, the district already will contribute to road improvements through two benefit district assessments for Basehor Town Center.

Council member Keith Sifford, who said he thought the district should pay the entire $69,593 in building permit fees, reminded council members of the precedent they would be setting, whatever their decision.

His statement rings hollow, however, in light of recent past actions the council had taken in waiving such fees. This past February, the council unanimously voted to waive the excise fee for construction of the new Holy Angels Catholic Church. In May 2007, the council waived the excise fee for construction of the new addition to First Baptist Church of Basehor.

Evidently, the separation of church and state is alive and well with the council. It has a separate policy for churches than it does for other units of government.

Yet, Albers still is holding out hope the fees ultimately may be waived. He indicated the district soon might try to resurrect the request with the council.

"I feel like we've always had a good relationship with the city because of the things we do for them and the things they do for us," he said. "I think this is another place where we can cooperate with them a little bit."

Should the council expect those good relations to continue in the future, reconsideration of the request is in order. Absent such action, it would behoove the council to codify a policy that no such fees will be waived in the future.

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