HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over a decade ago, the state Education Department was given the authority to set up developer fees in areas where significant residential growth is expected.
The idea: The fees would help pay for the construction of new schools.
But as of December 2018, the Education Department has collected just $5 million in school impact fees from across five school impact districts ― and has spent none of it, according to a new state audit.
By contrast, the DOE estimates the cost of building a new elementary school at about $80 million.
“Our review showed the DOE has not made implementation and administration of the school impact fee law a priority," the state audit concluded.
It added that the DOE’s “laissez-faire approach” to implementing school impact districts and garnering fees has fallen to a single land use planner.
And to date, the DOE has no written policies and procedures to guide how school impact districts are selected, and what type of review they should undergo.
The audit also noted that flaws in the law could also be impeding the work of designating school impact districts and collecting fees.
The state auditor made a number of recommendations in the report, including taking on a comprehensive evaluation of the school impact fee law’s implementation and creating written policies and procedures to make sure the law’s mandates are being met.
In its response to the audit, the DOE said the report offered “valuable insight” into how school impact fees are set up and collected.
But schools Superintendent Christine Kishimoto said she didn’t agree with the state’s auditor’s conclusion that the law has had a “questionable impact.”