Fort Mill Times

Lancaster schools will share in growth funds

Local schools will share in the revenue generated by growth.

The Lancaster County Council narrowly approved a measure Monday night to share 40 percent of future revenue generated by per-rooftop fees on new homes. The amount of the fees will be decided in development agreements between the county and developers.

Until the resolution was approved Monday night, none of the voluntary impact fees negotiated between the Lancaster County Council and developers in the county - sometimes as high as $10,000 per rooftop - were being offered to the school district to offset the cost of growth. Beginning July 1, those fees will be split with 60 percent going to the county and the school district getting the rest.

This also ensures the district will be involved in discussions with developers interested in donating land for future school buildings.

The measure initially failed on a 3-3 vote, with Indian Land's representative on the council, Bryan Vaughn, recusing himself because he is employed by the school district.

But just after the vote was taken, Councilman Larry Honeycutt decided to change his vote, approving the measure 4-2, with Councilmen Wayne Kersey and Jack Estridge opposed.

Estridge said the county has buildings in disrepair that need to be taken care of, rather than offering money to the school district to build new schools.

"We've got to help the schools? It's not our job," Estridge said.

Honeycutt was concerned about approving the resolution before the final reading of the county's 2008-2009 budget, which included a raise for county employees, was approved later in the meeting.

"The board of education is giving employees a raise and if we don't pass the budget and give our employees a raise, I can't support this," Honeycutt said.

Councilman Fred Thomas reminded the council that the school district plans to use the money from developers for capital needs projects, such as helping to fund construction on new schools and improvements to existing schools, not for employee raises.

Superintendent Gene Moore said he was "very appreciative" the council approved the agreement, but explained that the revenue generated by the agreement would likely come in very slowly over a long period of time.

When money is available, the district will use its long-range Capital Improvement Plan to decide how it should be spent, he added.

"Obviously, our capital needs will continue to increase not just with the growth in Indian Land, but capital needs across the county," Moore said.