A study is right

Published 10:04 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

Government agencies are often accused of holding up too many important decisions while waiting on studies to be performed and overpaid consultants to finish their reports.

Usually, studies simply allow elected officials and bureaucrats more time to equivocate, make back-room deals, avoid the topic or simply get past an election before making a decision.

Studies also rarely tell government agencies anything they don’t already know. If a study ordered by a government agency ever came back saying teachers were overpaid, downtown didn’t need more parking and the local police force actually had too many officers, it would be a miracle.

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But in one recent topic of discussion, a study is precisely the thing that is needed, and it has been needed for a while.

A proposal to bring a 414-unit housing development off Pruden Boulevard was tabled this week for seven months, an almost unprecedented amount of time for City Council to leave a developer hanging.

If you saw “414 units” and “Pruden Boulevard” in the same sentence and thought it was a terrible idea, you’re right. The amount of traffic this would bring to an already tragically dangerous road is a really good reason not to support this project.

But for the decision-makers, the main concern — and reason for the study — isn’t traffic. It’s overcrowded public schools.

Students who wound up living at the development would attend Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, which is already at 111 percent of its capacity and has 13 trailers in use. Other committed development would — supposedly — generate 82 students, so the school would be even more over its capacity by the time families start moving into this new development.

But that “supposedly” is the trick, because nobody agrees on how many students actually wind up living at different types of developments in this area, or how much money developers should pay for each student in order to help build new schools.

An unbiased, third-party study is absolutely what’s needed here for the city to develop new student generation rates and payments per student. Nobody will ever agree otherwise.  Developers don’t like coughing up more money than they have to, because it cuts into their profits. And cities — and taxpayers — don’t like footing the entire bill for school buildings while watching developers reap all the benefits of selling or renting homes to those families.

This is a study that has been needed in Suffolk for a long time, and it should be completed as soon as possible.