Florida Builders Battle High School Impact Fee
An earlier version of this story by Edie Ousley was published by the Florida Home Builders Association.
The Volusia Home Builders Association in Florida scored a victory last month when a judge ruled in their favor by reopening the debate on how much Volusia County schools charge for impact fees.
“From my perspective, obviously, I’m pleased that the administrative judge agreed with our position,” Allen Watts, an attorney for the builders association, told the Orlando Sentinel.
“It does not mean the end of impact fees,” he said. “It means the process by which they were adopted was flawed. And the process that should have been followed will allow much greater dialogue between the school board and the affected people.”
On June 6, Volusia hiked its school impact fee from $1,139 to $5,443. The judge’s ruling, however, has opened questions on whether the new higher fee will continue to be collected.
In its legal challenge, the association contended that the school board did not follow proper procedures before turning the matter over to the county council. Judge Don Davis of the Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee agreed, noting that the school board had engaged in “rulemaking” without meeting all the legal requirements.
Davis heard testimony from both sides during a hearing in the state capital on July 27.
Volusia County attorney Dan Eckert told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that school district staff would have to review and discuss the order before determining how to proceed. Frank Bruno, chairman of the county council, told the Sentinel that the impact of the judge’s order was “pretty unclear,” but he felt the county and the new fee were on solid legal ground.
School board members approved the impact fee hike as a method of paying for new development and its impacts on schools. The board based its fee on a report by Tindale-Oliver & Associates of Orlando.
County officials originally estimated that they would raise $25 million annually from the impact fee. The exact amount of the revenue raised since Volusia’s new fee took effect on June 6 is unknown.