CALIFORNIA CITY – The Mojave Unified School District will slash residential developer fee rates nearly 50% following a vote by the board June 13. Developer fees - also known as impact fees - have been the topic of discussion for both city council and the school district for several months.

Approval was recommended “In the spirit of cooperation with the City of California City, the unincorporated area of Mojave, and the taxpayers in the communities,” according to the board agenda item.

The district’s developer fees - fees that are paid by developers to school districts to mitigate the impact created by new development within a district - were $3.79 per square foot for residential development and 61 cents per square foot for commercial development. The new rate is $1.90 per square foot for residential development, while the commercial fees remain the same at 61 cents per square foot.  

“The last couple of meetings we’ve talked about developer fees,” said Assistant Superintendent, Business Keith Gainey. “Then at the last meeting, the direction was bring back a resolution to talk about cutting the fees in half.”

Council approved a temporary reduction in developer impact fees and introduction of a fast track permitting process May 28. The city will waive residential development impact fees for sewer and water for a period of three years. The city will temporarily waive the $1,649 water impact fee, $1,898 sewer impact fee and the $2,150 residential water connection fee.

Because the council reduction was more than 50%, Gainey presented the option of the district lowering their rate even farther, to $1.50 per square foot for residential.

Board Member Larry Adams spoke against going lower than the original plan as schools in California City are already at, or nearing capacity and that money may be needed for new buildings.

“There’s no room in the middle school, there’s some room in the high school because we can move classes around and change it,” he said.

Local businessman DJ Twohig has been championing the lowering of fees for several months, both with the city and the district. He also made a presentation on the recommendations from Kern Tax - the Kern County Taxpayers Association - and during a council workshop April 4 and was the only member of the public to speak during public comments for the district meeting.

“I do agree with the comments that Dr. Adams is making, facility needs are urgent for the students in the future,” said Twohig. “The thing that we’re asking of the board today, is to consider having a competitive advantage in California City as it relates to other communities in the Antelope Valley.  Perhaps the sweet spot might be if you would consider $1.50 and possibly increase it as we get new housing, so that would allow us to revitalize the housing industry.”

He also noted that the city plans to review the fees in three years and suggested that the district might want to make their reductions reviewable every year, instead of three years.

“As a director at Kern Tax, we’d be very interested to help with the data to help establish perhaps some analysis that could could help,” he said. “Perhaps a revised recommendation might be $1.50 or a period of year and then possibly look at it a year and see what’s available.”

The board ultimately decided to stick with the original recommendation, with Adams noting that it would be just as easy to review and reduce the fees as it would be to review and raise them.

The vote was unanimous at 4-0, with board member Andrew Parker absent.

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