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Council OKs split of development fees

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By Jenny Hartley

County Council will help out the Lancaster County School District when it comes to building new schools.

Council approved a resolution by a 4-2 vote Monday night to share development fees it collects with the school district to go toward building new schools.

Council approved a 60-40 split of the money.

That means if a developer agrees to contribute $10,000 per new house in a residential development, the county would receive $6,000 and the school district, $4,000.

Council would also negotiate with developers for land donations to build new schools.

The reasoning behind the contribution is that new residential neighborhoods County Council approves place a burden on the school district with more children moving into the area.

A committee of council and school board members have been meeting to discuss growth issues over the past year, and has been talking about the 60/40 split for the last few months.

Not long into the discussion, Councilman Larry Honeycutt suggested tabling the resolution until after council approved its 2008-09 budget later in the meeting. When a vote is tabled, no discussion is allowed.

Councilman Fred Thomas asked Honeycutt to retract his motion, and Honeycutt agreed. Thomas asked Honeycutt why he wanted to table the resolution.

Honeycutt said the school district just voted to raise taxes and gave its employees a raise in the coming fiscal year's budget. He wanted the county to also approve employee raises in its 2008-09 budget.

Councilman Jack Estridge objected to the split.

He said the county shouldn't set a percentage – that the money for the school district could be determined on a case-by-case basis.

"It's not Lancaster County's job to raise money for the school district," Estridge said.

"We need to be helping," Council Chairman Rudy Carter countered.

"Where do you get that from?" Estridge said. "We're two separate governments, so to speak. We weren't elected to help the schools."

Councilman Bryan Vaughn recused himself from the vote, since he works for the Lancaster County School District.

An initial vote was 3-3, with Councilmen Wayne Kersey, Estridge and Honeycutt voting against it.

But Honeycutt changed his vote to approval, so the final vote was 4-2. He said he changed his vote for the sake of education.

School district pleased

School board chairwoman Charlene McGriff said the money generated from the agreement probably won't be enough to build a new school, but will help with other capital needs, such as building renovations. The money that would have been used for those other needs can then be put toward new schools.

McGriff said this agreement is important because school are directly affected by the increased number of people moving into the county.

"It was something the county was looking at,"she said. "They are being proactive on situations that are going to come up."

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1151

Reporter Jesef Williams contributed to this article.