MILTON — An impact fee that the Santa Rosa County School Board requested to build new schools seemed dead when the board first presented it to a reluctant County Commission in May.
Now the schools district’s impact fee seems resurrected, thanks to voters overwhelming rejection of the county’s penny sales tax by a landslide of 2-1 during the special election Oct. 8.
“We should listen to the public, don’t you agree?” said Santa Rosa County School District Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick.
Voters have told commissioners with their vote and at commission meetings that they would pay for a sales tax if it approved an impact fee, including the proposed one by the school board.
The commission has now fast-tracked its own impact fee study. On Nov. 12, commissioners are slated to approve a firm to conduct a study.
The school district wants to put the impact fee for new schools on the same Nov. 12 agenda.
The county has the power to implement the impact fee with a vote by commissioners and has the power to collect the revenues and turn them over to the school system.
Wyrosdick said in his nearly 58 years this is the first time he has heard citizens ask to pay taxes.
“I was born and raised here and I have never in my life ever heard people say, ’It’s OK, increase my taxes,’” said Wyrosdick, who is serving his third term after earning election in 2008. “It’s a population change and culture change.”
The school board in the fall of 2018 hired Gene Boles, an urban planner, to conduct its impact fee study. As a result, the school district would assess a one-time fee of $5,000 on each homeowner who buys a new single-family house. People who buy a new multi-family unit would pay $3,000 in the north end of the county and $1,500 in the south end.
If it had been implemented in 2018, the fee would have generated an estimated nearly $8.7 million to build new schools, the study found.