Dublin schools are overcrowded today and will be overcrowded for years to come – we need to recognize this and act accordingly. The state school funding mechanism was designed so that developers and the state fully fund new school construction. This mechanism is not working and has lead to massive community debt. As a result, Dubliners have approved multiple bond Measures (C, E, H) which require repayments greater than $1 billion. Every Dublin homeowner pays substantially higher property taxes to repay this debt and these taxes are indirectly passed on to renters in the form of higher rent. Despite this massive debt, we continue to lack resources to fully fund the school facility “needs” leading to a perpetual state of overcrowding. Accordingly, we must be razor focused on properly prioritizing and sequencing every facility investment dollar.
We believe the top priorities of Measure H approved by the school board on April 26, 2016 include a new comprehensive high school in the east and renovations of schools in the west are the correct priorities. However, we are concerned the developers are advocating for competing priorities, specifically new elementary schools within or close to their communities to help sell their homes. The goal of the protesters is to ensure Dublin’s needs are paramount, not the developers. Accordingly, we do not want existing resources including approved bond measures (not just H, but also C and E) to be diverted to developer preferred projects. We are 100% focused on ensuring a second comprehensive high school is delivered before any new elementary schools are built.
Funding for new school construction is governed by California Senate Bill 50 (SB50). The intent of SB50 is for developers and State to fully fund new school construction. Local communities are generally responsible for maintenance and renovation of existing schools. The exact ratio of how much the state pays for developers is dependent upon the level of State funding available. Since December 2016, Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) is allowed to charge Level 3 developer impact fees that are intended to cover 100% of the costs of new school construction. Prior to this time, DUSD was allowed to charge Level 2 fees which were intended to cover 50% of the costs of new school construction with the other portion intended to be covered by the State.
The current Level 2 and Level 3 fees are approximately $11 and $22 per square foot, respectively, for unmitigated new residential construction. The actual impact was recently estimated by DUSD to be $42 per square foot or $100,000 for a typical 3 bedroom house. Why is there a gap? Various reasons including the state formula is based upon certain facility standards and DUSD tends to build to a higher standard that leads to higher costs. Can we get these costs down? Also while the fees are determined by DUSD specific inputs (cost of land and facilities) there are certain formulaic aspects and required standards that limit the level of fees that can be charged. Can we lobby to change SB50?
Another gap relates to mitigation agreements for certain developments (Dublin Crossing and Wallis Ranch for example) that allowed the developers to lock in lower fees. Absent a mitigation agreement, the fees paid are based upon the current rate when a building permit is pulled for each unit. For Dublin Crossing DUSD locked in lower fees of approximately $6 per square foot or approximately $14,000 for a typical 3 bedroom house which is less than 30% of the current $22 rate. This $6 was the rate in 2013 which at the time DUSD assumed Dublin High School would never exceed its 2500 capacity and accordingly no portion of the fee related to high school. By including the costs of the high school and some other estimate differences at the K-8 level the fees have since increased substantially. Can these mitigation agreements be challenged?
We have three areas of focus:
- Ultimately the developer is a business selling properties leveraging or marketing the amenities of the community including Dublin’shigh-qualityy schools. They have a long-term continuing relationship with Dublin and with the right balance it should be a win-win relationship. School overcrowding and the massive community debt is indicative of an out of balance relationship today. Without new schools, their new communities might encounter inconveniences such unassigned schools or their community divided between different schools street by street. Also, as with the rest of the community they will be impacted by the effects of overcrowding. To ensure continued business success, would the developer seek to negotiate a better outcome and provide incremental funding? It remains to be seen.
- However, perhaps more important is the needs of the community must come first when prioritizing limited investments dollars. We can’t allow the needs of the developer to usurp our needs including a second high school and modernization of west side schools. A new elementary school at Dublin Crossing will cost $70 million. Even if the developers paid incremental fees, building a new elementary school would divert limited resources away from a new high school and accordingly this is not an acceptable outcome in the mid term. The priority must remain a second comprehensive high school and after this need is met we can focus on a new elementary school.
- Educating prospective buyers (future Dublin residents) on the current state and challenges so that they are aware of the overcrowding situation and unassigned school boundary status prior to their purchase.