Government / Politics

Supervisors move forward on impact fees to fund library expansion

Board approves methodology for determining impact fees to fund construction of 25,000-square-food library

An impact fee structure to help fund library expansion and maintenance in the works in San Benito County would raise more than $1,000 per new single-family unit, according to a report provided to the Board of Supervisors this week.

Sara Fontanos, San Benito County management analyst, briefed supervisors about the methodology that would be used in order to develop library impact or mitigation fees. She told the board that she began working two years ago to develop an impact fee structure for the library and that she would be asking them to select between two different methodologies: the existing standard and a systems standard.

“With the existing standard the developer would be paying for an amount per single-family unit based on today’s existing standards of library facilities,” she said, explaining that the term “facilities” did not include services. “Existing standard is paying for what we have today, capital wise.”

A systems standard would amount to approximately $1029 per single-family unit that would be paid for by the developer. It would also require the county to commit an amount of non-impact fee funding by the planning horizon, which is 20 years out.

Fontanos reminded the board that impact fees can only pay for expansions and not maintenance of existing buildings. She said if the board were to adopt the systems standard it would be a higher amount required by the developer that would also require the county to commit a certain sum of money to meet the non-impact fee requirement. The existing standard, she said, would be a smaller amount with no impact fee requirement without meeting any current deficiencies the county has in library facilities to date.

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer asked if the county was locked into a set amount of $270,000, or if it is determined by future growth in the community. Fontanos answered that the numbers she was presenting to the board were based on the planned new library facility of 25,000 square feet.  

“That number, I believe was approximately $11 million, was split over 20 years,” she said. “That’s where that $270,000 came from.”

Fontanos told Muenzer that the $270,000 could increase, or perhaps even decrease, depending on population changes, as well as cost of the facility itself. She described the $270,000 as a baseline.

“So, we’re locking ourselves into a minimum of $270,000 for 20 years?” Muenzer asked, “And if we don’t have any growth then we’re not going to have the impact fees to help build the facility? And if we don’t lock ourselves into it then after we’ve collected the impact fees for 20 years, then we’re going to have to come up with the rest in one shot?”

She agreed with his conclusions. Then, Supervisor Anthony Botelho said the Intergovernmental Committee has discussed the need for partnerships and that Hollister needs to be more involved than the a “token amount.”

“Being on the Intergovernmental Committee now, we’ve talked about the larger project, and as far as a goal, I don’t know if that’s a go,” Botelho said, “but, hopefully, we’re able to persuade the city to apply an impact fee that will contribute to this project. Does this ($270,000) include their participation in this or is this just based on our (county) role?”

Fontanos him that it was based on both and the $270,000 was the amount the county would set aside, with the hope the city would also contribute to the project. She explained further about what she termed a “living impact fee” that it is important to realize that changes occur over time, such as discussions about a technology-library center, and that it’s important to realize that impact fees have annual changes, as well as five-year changes.

“The annual changes should typically flow with how our capital improvement programs and planning are going,” she said. “As we move closer to understanding costs toward the project, we’re adjusting that fee every five years at minimum, though we can do it sooner.”

Current figures are based on the original plan for a 25,000-square-foot facility, but with new partners and changing visions of what the facility will eventually look like, costs change.

“The Nexus study that will be adopted, based on the methodology you choose today, is based on a 25,000-square-foot library,” Fontaos said. “It’s a very broad project. If you choose the existing standard, we’ll be collecting something for this 25,000-square-foot library. Let’s say in the next two years we’ve come further down the road with the city and other partners and we have an agreement of the sharing of costs and maybe a bigger idea for the library that is maybe $20 million and we’re all splitting it. That would change our Nexus study and our calculations.”

Supervisor Margie Barrios asked about the procedure of changing from one standard to another. Fontanos told Barrios that it would happen via a resolution and a new Nexus study to identify the new project partners and costs. Barrios said that would fall within her definition for the process as a living program and that impact fees are a constant reality that needs constant readjustments.

Supervisor Jamie De La Cruz wanted to clarify that any impact fees were only for new construction. Fontanos said that was true. Then Cruz challenged Hollister, stating that the city needs to play ball with the county in backing the library (Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has already taken up a new tech center-library as a project). Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he was comfortable with the discussion, but wanted to know if a feasibility study being done in conjunction with the city would affect the $270,000 figure. Fontanos answered that the needs assessment and a request for proposal the county is working toward for the library would not immediately have any affect.

“That is just a little stepping stone to a future item down the road that would change an existing standard to a system standards,” she said. “I’m hoping you will choose a methodology today and regardless which one that needs assessment will only help, but not necessarily change it right away.”

Muenzer asked, “I know you have started next year’s budget, but does it look like we have $270,000?”

“By the planning horizon, which is a 20-year period, you have to provide that amount, so the yearly amount can change, just so at the end we need that amount,” Fontanos said, and added, “The staff recommendation is to go with the existing standard and at least start collecting something for our existing needs, and then to ask either the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer), or his designee to bring the study once it comes back to you on March 22 to the cities, as well. The good news is they can adopt the same study.”

Botelho said San Juan Bautista already has a library and wondered if the city went along with the recommendation. He asked if Fontanos had any discussions with San Juan or Hollister staffs.  Fontanos said she had not and said, “Their portion would go to our identified project. As part of the impact fee they would be collecting an administrative fee of a certain percentage and pass that along for developments.”

Rebecca Salinas made the first public statement: “We have waited forever for something like this. You’ve all said you support our library. Now we have some teeth.”

She told the supervisors of how many in the community use the library and how crowded it is. She said she tutors and that it is almost impossible to find a table. She recognized that a new library may still be several years in coming and asked that in the meantime perhaps another location might be earmarked for additional space.

“I, for one, am very happy that this is going forward,” she said. “At least there is something on the horizon.”

Kathy Larabell, a former teacher, read a statement from Susan Logue, president of the county’s Friends of the San Benito County Free Library, in addressing impact fees and physical space. Logue’s comments agreed that there is a need for impact fees for the library and the need for more space because of the numerous students being tutored there. Larabell said that she personally uses the library extensively for research and that there is a dire need for more space for the many children who also use it.

Marty Richman said he has been in favor of impact fees for the library for quite some time and added, “One of the reasons to establish impact fees is to kick the door open and start putting money aside in the event that the state, as it did in the year 2000, floats a library bond again. When they did that they picked up two thirds of the cost, but you had to have matching funds. If you get two bucks for every buck that’s a bargain.”

He said that he believes there is also private money just waiting to see how things shake out with the county and city.

“Look at what happened at the hospital when they wanted to expand,” Richman  said. “They got a public bond and as soon as they got it the private money started to flow in and when you go through the hospital you see all these rooms named after people who were very generous with their contributions. I think the library will produce the same thing.”

Muenzer asked for clarification that the impact fees were only applicable to the non-incorporated areas and the two cities would need to have their own fees. Fortanos said he was correct and added that the cities could use the county’s study, but any fees would go toward the county’s proposed project.

“This opens the door for communication and a bigger plan,” she said.

A motion was proposed and carried unanimously by the supervisors to go with the staff’s recommendation to move forward with the existing standard methodology in devising impact fees for the library.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]