— By DAVID MAY
Thanks to a Texas Attorney General’s opinion handed down Tuesday, Weatherford College will not have to pay impact fees to the City of Weatherford on new construction projects.
A question about the fees arose last year when the city sought impact from the junior college district for construction of a new academic building and softball complex. Weatherford College Vice President of Institutional Advancement Brent Baker said the fees totaled $40,000.
The college district questioned whether legislation treated junior college districts as public school districts, which would waive such fees on construction projects. The AG’s office looked at a handful of statutes, several of which failed to clearly state whether junior college districts were meant to be treated as public school districts.
In the end, the AG relied on a section of the state’s Education Code that states a junior college district “is hereby declared to be, and constituted as, a school district within the meaning of Article VII, Section 3, of the Texas Constitution.
“Thus, the plain language of subsection 130.122(f) places junior college districts within the meaning of the statutory term ‘school district,’” reads the opinion, signed by AG Greg Abbott. “The Legislature could, of course, exclude junior college districts from the term ‘school district’ for purposes of a particular statute. As explained above, however, chapter 395 contains no language indicating the Legislature intended to do so.”
Baker said the college district was pleased with the AG’s opinion.
“Every little bit counts,” he said. “We understand why the city has impact fees.”
Baker noted the issue was not a “contentious” one between the college district and the city. The city, in fact, took no position on the question.
“The city has been fantastic. They have been very easy to work with and have really bent over backwards to help us on this issue,” Baker said.
The college is looking ahead to additional new construction projects, including a planned health sciences building on the campus’ west side.
Weatherford City Manager Jerry Blaisdell agreed it was good to have the ruling and question resolved.
“Those impact fees will be a significant savings for the junior college,” Blaisdell said. “Having that legal opinion certainly clears it up for both of us, and I think it will be a significant advantage to the college.”