Ukiah Unified School District officials are considering legal options as they unravel the impact of a court ruling that struck down the fees they charge to new developments.
"It's something the attorneys are wrestling with," said Superintendent Deb Kubin.
Meanwhile, they're asking Mendocino County Judge Cindee Mayfield to vacate her Nov. 5 judgment and send the issue back to the school board, said the district's attorney, Lori Donahoe. They'll consider appealing the ruling if she denies the motion, Kubin said.
Development impact fees are designed to provide funds to improve and expand schools to accommodate the students generated by new development.
"They are very important," Kubin said.
Judge Mayfield struck them down, saying the school district failed to adequately document why its development impact fees were necessary. There was no evidence the school board adopted a 2012 study upon which the fees were supposed to be based, she stated. She did not rule on whether the fees were warranted.
Mayfield ordered the school district to refund the fees charged to developer Steve Gomes, who brought the lawsuit.
This is the second time he's sued over impact fees. In 2007, a state court of appeal ordered the district to repay Gomes about $100,000 plus interest.
This time, Gomes is owed $13,500, plus interest, according to his attorney, Matisse Knight.
No other developers have asked to have their fees refunded, Kubin said.
She said it's unclear whether all of the fees or just the increase imposed last year are at issue.
The school board last year increased the fees from $2.44 per square foot to $2.77 per square foot, said Sandra Harrington, the district's chief business official.
The state allows districts to charge up to $3.20 per square foot, she said.
The district collected $146,000 in development fees in fiscal year 2012-13, Harrington said. It fluctuates, depending on development activity in the county, she noted.
Kubin contends that the district's fees are justified and are based on a study commissioned by the district board.
But there apparently were some defects in the documentation, she said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here