MILTON — Santa Rosa County is growing so fast, school district officials say, the county will need five new schools within the next 10 years.
With the Santa Rosa County School District revenue basically stagnant, according to Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, the School Board voted unanimously on April 25 to ask the County Commission to re-institute impact fees in Santa Rosa County.
Santa Rosa County used impact fees — which are fees placed on construction projects to offset the cost to public services — until the 2008 recession.
Wrysodick said his plan was to place a $5,000 impact fee on all new single-family homes, but not commercial development. The maximum allowable impact fee is $8,770. The board will also be asking for an impact fee of $3,000 on multi-family unit homes in the north end of the county and $1,500 for multi-family-unit homes in the south end.
Wyrosdick said the impact fees are necessary because the district does not have the money to build schools to meet the student population growth.
"We have maximized use of the half-cent sales tax," Wrysodick said. "There is zero state funding for new school construction."
Wryosdick said he was grateful for the growth and the fact that so many people wanted to raise their children in the county.
He also said he was concerned about the length of time the district has gone in building a new school in the county.
"We haven't put a shovel in the ground (for new schools) in four-and-a-half years," he said. "I don't want to go another four years without building one."
Despite the board's approval of the impact fee proposal, Edwin Henry and Alton Lister, both home builders in the county, said they had concerns about the implications the proposal would mean for the county.
Henry said he believed the implementation of the impact fees could hurt families.
"(That) could knock them right out of being able to afford the home of their dreams," Henry said.
Henry said he cautioned the county to slow down, look at the situation carefully and review how school district money is being spent.
"I think there is a better way," he said. "I think we need to re-evaluate how the half-cent tax is being used."
Lister said he commended the school board for all the things that they do and agreed that the county was behind in the building of homes, but said he did not believe implementing impact fees was a proper solution.
"Less than half the counties (in the state) have impact fees," Lister said. "So you have to ask yourself, what's the proper answer?"
The county has also voiced opposition to impact fees in the past, fearing it would lead shoppers to look for homes outside the county.
Wryosdick will present the district's proposal to the county commissioners during a joint meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 15 at the county complex.