Home builders, school leaders, home sellers, residents, parents — there were plenty of voices debating what higher fees on residential development for Fort Mill schools might mean.
Now, the receipts are starting to tell the story.
The last wave of lower fees and the first round of higher ones are on the books after York County Council approved increasing fees on new homes and apartments within the Fort Mill school district.
The district had been getting $2,500 for each new residence since 1996.
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The new fees, approved July 16, are more than $18,000 for each new home and $12,000 for each new apartment. The fees are paid by builders or developers at the time a building permit is issued, but the cost is typically passed on to home buyers and renters.
The collection of the fees, called impact fees, now show an increase in new home and apartment construction just ahead of the change. It also shows building hasn’t dried up since.
The first fees at the higher fee rate were nine apartments on Croft Drive with permits issued in late July. The developer paid $108,180, at just over $12,000 per unit. It would have taken 44 apartments to pay that same amount at the previous fee rate.
The rest of the 220 homes and apartments permitted in July — spanning Fort Mill, Tega Cay and unincorporated York County — still were charged the lower fee. The district collected a total of $635,680.
In August, the district collected fees on 404 properties for more than $2.6 million.
Still, 71 percent of the fees in August were from building permits at the lower fee rate.
“The county told us there were some (permits) approved before the change, but hadn’t been issued yet,” said Joe Burke, school district spokesperson. “So where someone had applied for a permit, but hadn’t shown up in person yet.”
Eventually all permits will reflect the higher fee.
“The county told us it could be a couple of months of this,” Burke said.
Tallying total permits from one month to the next doesn’t necessarily show a run on permits before the increased rate, as some municipality planners said they weren’t expecting would happen. Seasonal changes also affect permit applications, because summer building is often higher.
Major projects can skew numbers, too. A large apartment project may add 100 or more residences in a month, while new home subdivisions may spread out the permits over time.
Still, data shows plenty of activity ahead of the change.
Only nine of the 220 residences in July were charged the higher rates. The 287 residences that came in at the lower rate in August would have put that month ahead of all others for total permits in 2018. Plus, all 287 technically were approved by mid-July, but finalized in August.
From January through July, the average of monthly building permits was 143. In August, 117 permits were charged at the higher rate. The $1,894,880 collected just on those permits equaled more than two previous highest months combined.
The overall amount for August of $2,612,380 is higher than the three previous highest months combined.
District collection data shows 1,439 home and apartment projects permitted within the district this year through August.
Impact fees are used to pay for services needed because of new growth. Fort Mill and Tega Cay have their own impact fees to pay for municipal services. The school district fees can be used for new schools.
The district isn’t planning on using that extra money just yet. The district voted to raise its tax rate on debt repayment amid a case filed by state and area home builders challenging the higher fees. That case was filed with the state supreme court, but hasn’t yet been heard.