You read that right. The School District left a half million sitting on the table uncollected. Yet they want you to give them more of your hard earned stretched to the max money. (Hello – TC Palm – where have you been?)
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Here’s the Timeline:
MCSD BOE Meeting; Lori Gaylords last 10-20-20 (she drops bomb about uncollected Taxes from Stuart City since 2016 = $500,000)
No Mention of it until I send the Email this past April
BOE DeLertizzi mentions it at a the following meeting and no discussion gets picked up about it.
Chair Roberts and Dr. Millay,
I am following up on the email sent on Monday regarding the inquiry as to the outstanding impact fees due from the City. I am not certain where the $500,000 amount was determined, but will provide you with a summary of my understanding of how the School District learned of the possibility of outstanding impact fees and efforts to resolve the same. It is my understanding that School District staff in the spring of 2020 inquired with the City about the possibility of the underpayment, and lack of payment of impact fees from as far back as 2016. It is also my understanding that the School District placed a public records request with the City asking for information on residential building permits pulled between 2016 and 2020. After multiple attempts, it is my understanding the City was provided a list of the residential building permits pulled within the City during that time period. That list was then matched up with the School District’s records of impact fees received, which presumably led to the apparent missing amount and discrepancies.
In the fall of 2020, I was asked to work with Blake Phillips, then one of the School District’s attorneys, to investigate the matter. Mr. Phillips prepared a spreadsheet showing all of the residential building permits pulled during the applicable time period, together with corresponding information that he obtained relating to the apparent impact fees received for each such permit. There were two main issues/concerns: (1) were building permits issued without the City collecting school impact fees and (2) when collected, was the City using an inaccurate fee schedule (2004 schedule v. 2008 schedule).
As part of the investigation into these issues we had multiple telephone calls and meetings with the City Attorney, Mike Mortell. We provided Mr. Mortell as copy of the spreadsheet Mr. Phillips prepared, which at that point included notation about discrepancies in the collection of impact fees, including identifying specific permits at issue. Mr. Mortell worked with City staff to review the building permits in order to respond accordingly. Regarding the building permits that were issued with no corresponding impact fee payment, the vast majority of those permits, after discussions with Mr. Mortell, were permits that were for the redevelopment of a piece of property, not “new” construction. Since impact fees would have been paid on the initial development, no impact fees are due if that original unit is demolished and a new one is constructed. The exception to that would be if the original structure was on a lower tier impact fee payment (i.e. a smaller unit) and the new structure was larger that placed the construction in a higher impact fee category. In such an event the new construction would pay the difference between the two tiers of impact fee amounts.
Mr. Mortell did acknowledge that for a period of time the wrong impact fee amount was collected at times. In 2016 and 2017 impact fees were collected by the City, but apparently one technician was aware of the updated impact fee amount and another technician was not. So depending on who calculated and collected the impact fee on a particular project either the 2004 impact fee schedule was used or the 2008 impact scheduled was used. This discrepancy was apparently resolved in 2018 and the correct impact fee amount has been collected since. In discussions with Mr. Mortell, the City’s position in early 2021 was that although the new schedule may have been discussed at a joint meeting, the interlocal agreement between the School District and the City relating to the collection of impact fees requires that formal written notice be sent to the City notifying them of the new impact fee schedule. According to the City, this was never done so they question the legal responsibility for the collection of the 2004 amount instead of the 2008 amount.
Attached is a summary of the residential building permits pulled during the applicable period of time, together with corresponding information on whether impact fee were due and, if so, paid in the correct amount. Permit entries highlighted in blue are permits where there was a shortfall in the payment or the School District has no record of receipt of payment of impact fees. It appears the majority of any amounts outstanding relate to the collection of impact fees at the 2004 schedule, instead of the higher 2008 schedule.
Please be aware the attached was prepared in reliance on information from School District and City staff and has not been independently researched or verified. I have relied on information provided by Blake Phillips, former School District attorney, and Mike Mortell, City attorney.
Please let me know any questions.
Tyson J. Waters, Partner
3461 SE Willoughby Boulevard
This was an issue that was dropped on the Board as Superintendent Gaylord was leaving us and Dr. Millay was coming on board. At the initial time that Superintendent Gaylord was bringing this up, the District had two staff attorneys (Joe Rodowicz & Blake Phillips). Neither of these had a great deal of experience in Real Estate matters or Impact Fees. Attorney Tyson Waters (who the Board uses for these types of issues looked into this). Here is his email that was sent in April 2022.
The Spreadsheet attachment doesn’t come through on the email copy, so I’m providing it separately as an attachment to this email so that you can see that document.
It is unfortunate when attorneys that aren’t familiar with particular nuances of laws attempt to weigh in and render legal advice that is then relied upon. The School Board now uses attorneys that possess the necessary experience in the field of the issue being discussed.
If you have any questions regarding this matter or want to discuss it further, please reach out to me at 772-214-2658 or REPLY to this email.
Thanks again for your diligence and interest in being frugal with taxpayer money and looking out for revenues that are due to our District. My apologies for not being promptly responsive in the past.
Christia Li Roberts
Martin County School Board
Member, District One