Indian Land needs impact fees for schools now
Since I joined the Lancaster County School Board in 2018, I have repeatedly voiced my concerns about how Lancaster County School District will be able to handle the Indian Land growth that is ever present. It’s a real and growing problem, especially since the area is among one of the fastest growing in the country. (https://www.zipdatamaps.com/.../map-of-fastest-growing...).
With the way public school funding is structured in South Carolina, methods for funding additional schools and improvements to current ones is limited. One such avenue for funding that is established in state law is the use of impact fees, a set fee per new house that a developer builds. These charges do not affect current homes; they are fees applied to new construction and must be paid by the developer.
To put it simply, we need impact fees for Indian Land schools now. With each passing week, hundreds of thousands of dollars that our children could use is lost. State law requires that any school district that wishes to impose impact fees must pay for a study by an established firm, and that firm will then propose the amount the area needs and can lawfully impose. The school district has already followed through with these steps with a nationally recognized firm. (https://tischlerbise.com/expertise/services/impact-fees/) However, by state law, neither a school district nor school board can legally impose those fees. Instead, the county council has to approve those fees, impose them, then pass the revenue on to the school district.
And that’s where we are today. With each passing day new developers are coming to Indian Land and beginning new projects but thus far county council has not taken a vote on impact fees for the area’s schools. In fact, right now it is still in the hands of the council’s planning commission awaiting their recommendation to county council on whether or not to approve the school district’s request for impact fees. Personally speaking, I have serious concerns about the direction things are going, even though the district and representatives from the school board have made multiple presentations to the county and planning commission to explain how dire the needs for impact fees really is and how well they work. The school board has also had the Fort Mill School District and school board make a presentation to county council to explain how incredibly successful impact fees have been for them. Fort Mill School District announced this week that they have recently raised over $40 million in new development impact fees. This would seem to indicate that impact fees do not hinder growth, a concern that some have publicly expressed, though I would add that my concern is solely for the future of our children rather than the future of development.
There is an adage about impact fees: “Let growth pay for growth.” If impact fees are not granted for our area schools by Lancaster County soon, I am afraid we will instead cause unnecessary crowding of our schools as the price that we pay for growth instead of asking developers, who are making a profit off our communities, to help with the expenses.