The two home builders associations in Florida are attempting to overthrow the fee because it was based on a faulty study, which was conducted by an outside consulting firm commissioned by the school district.
“The school impact fee would force home buyers to pay twice for one impact,” said Gilmore. “Inherent in the cost of a new home are road infrastructure expenses to access the home, property taxes paid on that home, sales taxes paid for the material to build the home, fees and taxes to build and buy the home, and ultimately the property tax and mileage fee charged on that home forever more.”
The Osceola school levy fails to consider any of those costs, Gilmore said, and it “eliminates all credits for past and future faxes and fees paid, or expected to be paid, by the home owner. Making matters worse, credits for other school revenue sources such as funding for new school construction from the State of Florida were eliminated from the calculations. This is contrary to well-established principles governing the imposition of impact fees by a local government and the primary reason for our legal challenge.”
Gilmore also pointed out that less than 50% of the county’s school population is coming from the construction of new housing.
The School District of Osceola County has said that while the litigation is ongoing it has been advised by legal counsel to place in escrow the difference of what has been collected between the previous rate and the new rate. From July 1, 2004 through November, $14.3 million in impact fees was collected; so far, $8 million has been placed in escrow.
“It is unfortunate that the money that could help provide needed relief from overcrowded classrooms is being tied up because of a lawsuit instead of being spent to build new schools for our students,” said Superintendent Blaine Muse. “Raising the impact fee was a huge step for new growth to pay for itself. By 2006, the district will be even farther behind in building needed classrooms.”
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