LONG BEACH — The school board has decided to tap local developers for at least $3.5 million a year in its campaign to build 13 new schools.
Board members Tuesday voted unanimously to impose fees of $1.50 a square foot for new residences and 25 cents a square foot for commercial buildings. The fees are effective Jan. 1, and will bring in between $3.5 million and $4 million a year, school officials have estimated.
While some developers complained in interviews that the fees are too high, district officials said they had no choice because of a new state law that will penalize the district for not imposing the fees. The district imposed the maximum allowed.
"There is no other source of revenue," said school board President John E. Kashiwabara.
"We have no alternative," added Mary Anne Mays, the school district's deputy director of facilities funding.
Empowered to Levy Fees
The state law, passed in August, gives school districts the power to impose the developers' fees. The law applies to 600 school districts that have applied for state funds to build new schools.
However, under the law, if the district does not impose the maximum developers' fees allowed, the district must come up with other local funds equal to that amount, said state and local school officials.
The law says that the money will be considered the district's share of the cost of building new schools, with the remainder of the cost to be borne by the state.
The Long Beach Unified School District is one of many districts that have moved to adopt the developers' fees, said Ernest Lehr, director of the state Education Department's division of school facilities, organization and transportation.
Developers' fees are needed because the statewide cost of building new schools and modernizing old ones is expected to total $1 billion annually for the next five years, Lehr said. He added that the law was passed to regulate increasingly divergent developers' fees around the state that in some school districts had amounted to as much as $7,000 for each new residence. The law allows the higher fees in other districts to be grandfathered in.
In Long Beach, the fee of $1.50 per square foot would raise $2,250 from a 1,500-square-foot house.
Long Beach officials have requested $245 million in state funds to build 10 new elementary schools, two new junior high schools and a senior high school by September, 1990. The request also includes money to pay for refurbishing 10 elementary schools. The district's share of the cost would be about $14 million, Mays said.
The district is at capacity with 65,000 students and is growing by 1,200 to 1,500 students annually, officials have said.
Issue to Face L.A.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, a school board committee next month will begin discussing whether the district should impose developers' fees, said district spokesman Bill Rivera.
Robert Booker, the Los Angeles district's chief business and financial officer, has written school board members a memo that says, "in effect, the new legislation requires that if the district does not charge developers fees as of Jan. 1, our state construction funds will be reduced by the estimated developers' fees that we could have charged."
In Long Beach, board members adopted the developers' fees without a word of debate after a public hearing where no developers spoke.
Board President Kashiwabara said local developers "are intelligent people who realize the plight of the school district." He added that the fees imposed by the board are "very realistic."
However, developer Craig Langslet said in an interview that the fees were "unreasonable" and that local developers did not attend the meeting because they had not been notified of the board's plans.
Langslet, president of C. Robert Langslet & Sons Inc. of Long Beach, said he believes that the fees are necessary, but that the district should have phased the fees in at amounts less than the maximum rates allowed under the new law.
"I don't think it's fair to tack it all on the developers, especially all of it up front," he said.
Elaine Hutchison, a developer and chairwoman of the board of directors of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said she was concerned that the new fees would put the city in a "precarious" position as it attempts to attract developers.
"Long Beach still has not rounded the bend, in my opinion, as a good place to invest for the entire business community," she said.
'Higher Rents' Seen
Hutchison said she was disappointed that board members adopted the maximum fees allowable under the new state law. She also predicted that the new fees "will only result in higher rents."
A spokesman for a local builders association said the impact of the fees will be dramatic.
"They will make it harder for the economics to work out and ultimately we will see much, much higher apartment rents for the people of Long Beach," said Roy Hearrean, developer and spokesman for the 550-member Southern California Builders Association.
Long Beach school officials say the developers' fees will not solve the district's money problems. Even with the developers' fees and state funds, the district will need additional money or have to build "bare-bones" schools that lack landscaping, auditoriums, covered walkways or inside hallways, Mays has said.
Earlier this month, school board officials sought $72 million from the city for school construction, but were turned down by both the City Council and the city Redevelopment Agency.
School officials have said the district plans to pursue the request despite what board President Kashiwabara described this week as the district's "strained relations" with city officials.