HSTA supports proposed rail transit school impact fee

The Hawaii State Teachers Association testified strongly in support of a Department of Education proposal to charge developers school impact fees for each apartment built along a four-mile stretch of the rail transit line through urban Honolulu.

As many as 40,000 new apartment units could be built along the rail route between Middle Street and Ala Moana Center in the next 30 years.

At a public hearing this week, Department of Education Planner Heidi Meeker said, “We expect tremendous growth in population in urban Honolulu that will be focused on the areas near the train stations.”

The DOE is proposing developers along a stretch of the rail line pay an impact fee for each apartment unit they build to help expand existing schools near rail or build new ones.

Right now, there are 13 public schools along that portion of the rail project. The DOE estimated public school enrollment in this part of Honolulu will grow by as many as 9,000 students in the next couple of decades because of rail. So the DOE predicted needing up to six new elementary schools, one and a half middle schools along with one and a half high schools along the rail route through urban Honolulu.

“The DOE is proposing a $9,374 fee for every new apartment built along the rail line, from Kalihi to Ala Moana. If an apartment project provides the DOE with school land or facilities, then the fee amount is $584 a unit,” Meeker said.

At a DOE public hearing on the proposal Nov. 2 at Farrington High, HSTA President Corey Rosenlee testified in strong support.

“We encourage the Board of Education to pass this,” Rosenlee said at the hearing.

“There’s going to be a point with all these new buildings going up in Kakaako that we are going to need new schools. And the question is if we don’t have these fees, are we not going to build these schools?” Rosenlee added. “Are our schools going to be old before we fix them? The reality is that we need to start these impact fees now so we develop this fund so that when our schools need these buildings, we have the ability to fund it.”

Rosenlee testified that since the average age of public school buildings in Hawaii is 65 years old, he wants the state to go even further.

“We’re also hoping we don’t get behind the ball and we do this for other areas as well so that all new developments have to pay into the schools in which the districts they live,” said Rosenelee. 

Following two public hearings held the first week of November, the Board of Education is scheduled to consider the proposed Kalihi-to-Ala Moana school impact fees at its November 15 meeting.

Public comments on the proposal can also be submitted in writing to the Department of Education. You can email the comments to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The proposed boundaries are defined by the current service area boundaries for the following nine elementary schools: Fern, Kaahumanu, Kaiulani, Kalihi Kai, Kalihi Waena, Kauluwela, Likelike, Puuhale, and Royal.

The BOE is required by law to designate School Impact Districts where population growth creates the need for more school facilities over the next 25 years. By law, school impact fees are designed to cover the land and 10 percent of the cost for new school construction.

Developers of residential units in the School Impact District, including the owners of vacant, individual lots, will have to pay the impact fee requirements before they will be issued a residential building permit by the City and County of Honolulu. HIDOE estimates that the fee will be $9,374 per new unit, unless developers provide school land or facilities space.

HIDOE’s written analysis of the proposed Kalihi to Ala Moana District found that the city of Honolulu is planning to permit up to 39,000 new residential units in the areas closest to the nine Honolulu Area Rapid Transit rail stations from Middle Street to Ala Moana. If all of the 39,000 units were built, HIDOE projects a need for up to six new elementary schools and one and a half middle and high schools. Space would be needed for approximately 8,500 additional public school students.

For projects with 50 or more units, residential developers will need to sign agreements with HIDOE to provide land or facilities for new schools, or a fee-in-lieu of land, as well as a construction fee before receiving land entitlements.

The law covers all residential development, including homes built by individual lot owners. The law exempts only those residential units that by deed covenant prohibit occupancy by school-age children and any form of housing (such as timeshares) obliged to pay the transient accommodations tax.

HIDOE already collects school impact fees in Maui and Leeward Oahu.

Copies of the written analysis of the proposed Kalihi to Ala Moana district, including a map of the district are available by contacting the HIDOE Planning Office at 784-5080. Copies are also posted on the HIDOE website at: http://bit.ly/ImpactDistricts