The Anderson County Planning Commission voted 5-3 Tuesday night, to not approve the proposed Anderson School District One Impact Fee, killing the issue and preventing it from being addressed by County Council.
Planning Commission members heard from 45 speakers including teachers, principals, administrators, and parents, almost all residents of the district, who all urged them to vote yes.
Councilman Jimmy Davis, who represents County Council District 6, primarily the Powdersville area, was one of the last speakers during the public hearing. He urged the planning commission to unanimously approve the proposal. “These are very conservative, Republican voters who are asking for the impact fee,” he said. “There are 2000 single family home dwellings in Anderson School District One that have been approved by you. At .75 children per home, that comes to 1500 additional kids coming to the district.” He added, “Most of those against the proposal don’t even live in Anderson County.”
“Send the proposal to County Council and let us work on it to come up with a great plan to provide a safe place for kids to go to school,” Davis said. “Respect their wishes and send it to County Council. I don’t want my taxes to go up any more. It is time for people who are coming here in droves to pay their fair share.”
Eight people including realtors, builders and a representative of the manufactured housing industry spoke against the proposed impact fee. Some raised questions about the numbers in a presentation made by District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker. Others stated that the $11,000 impact fee, on top of inflation and rising interest rates, would affect new housing affordability, and sales, particularly in West Pelzer and Williamston. One said that the methodology in the impact study was wrong, stating the number of kids per new home was 50 homes resulting in one new child in the school system. “Their information is flawed,” he said.
One pointed out that the County would have to collect the impact fee and “would be on the hook if something goes wrong.”
Another said with the $11,000 impact fee, that the development cost of lots in West Pelzer would equal to $20,000 per acre . “We will not be able to build in West Pelzer or Williamston,” he said.
One realtor said, “First time home buyers struggle to find a home they can afford. Interest rates and top prices. The pain is real. Alot have walked away.” She said that a house that was selling for around $175,953 when the impact fee study was done is now selling for more than double that.”
A number of those speaking in favor of the impact fee stated that Anderson School District One is the reason so many families are moving to the area, and most would pay that much or more to have their children educated in the District, which is consistently one of the top in the state.
During his presentation at the start of the public hearing, District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker reiterated that District One had gone through a two year process to look at the impact fee, including having a study done, to help pay for growth the District is experiencing.
AD1 is one of the top performing school districts in the state and one of the lowest funded.
District One continues to see increased enrollment and just completed a $132 million building program which included two new middle schools and additions at almost all. Binnicker presented a list of schools that are already at capacity and some using portables. The District is expecting 3000 new students in the next 15 years.
“We don’t have room for them,” Binnicker told the planning commission members. “More homes means more students.”
Binnicker said the impact fee alone would not pay for the number of classrooms that will be needed. He said the District will also have to sell bonds and have the property owners pay for it, there will be portables, use some Local Option Sales Tax money and General Funds for the next building program.
“We don’t like adding portables. They are great for a temporary use, but we have a permanent issue.”
The impact fee would shift a portion of the cost of growth to new home construction. The impact fee would have added a maximum of $11,249 for a single home and $7,855 for a multi family home on all new construction. That amount of the impact fee was not set and could have been reduced if the issue had gone before County Council for discussion and a vote.
Binnicker said it would “Allow growth to pay for growth”.
“We have hundreds of calls a year on how to get into Anderson District One. We tell them they have to live in District One. Ninety percent wouldn’t bat an eye.”
The impact fee study showed that the $30 million the impact fee would have brought to the District would add about $55 per month to a 30 year mortgage at the time it was done.
Binnicker pointed out that the planning commission approved thousands of homes in AD1 and thousands more are being approved now in new subdivisions. “Our infrastructure can’t handle it. You hear about the impact on roads and fire. Our schools can’t handle this. This is your chance.”
Many of the teachers, a lot of them also parents, said that they didn’t want their children in portables, which they said are not conducive to learning and are not safe.
A number also stated that “We have something special in District One. We should prepare for growth now.”
Other comments made during the public hearing included:
“One of the most desirable aspects of purchasing a home in AD1 is people want to be here.”
“A portable is not an ideal place to teach.”
“What is best for the kids.”
When talking with parents at a ballfield – “Alot are not from the district, when asked one why are you here? The response was “It’s the schools”.
“Students having to go back to their classrooms to eat lunch.”
One parent said, “$200 was added to my rent , not once thought about leaving the district.”
“The best place for our kids to be in school because of the schools and the education – The impact fee, I don’t think it will deter anyone, especially with children.”
“Someone is going to have to pay for this one way or another.”
“People say they don’t care how much their house is, they want to be in District One. We need more room in our schools.”
“If School District One was just an average school district, how difficult would it be for our realtors to sell?”
One said there were four new families in their neighborhood, from Washington, Oregon, Tennessee and California – “Bought their house sight unseen. People are paying over the asking price to be in District One.”
“Take some of that burden away from long term residents of Anderson District One.”
Several school adminstrators/principals said they have watched the growth, with new subdivisons built across from their schools. One said, “New land is cleared, houses go up.” Interest rates are still lower than several years ago. The impact fee is the best answer.”
When the planning commission vote was taken, Jane Jones (District 6), Dan Harvell, (District 7) and Donna Mathews (District 2) voted in favor. The other five members voted against.
Councilman Jimmy Davis was obviously irritated by the 5-3 vote to turn down the proposal and not have it go on to County Council for consideration.
He went back to the microphone and said, “You have done a great dis-service to the people of School District One by not allowing this to go to County Council.”
Only one of the five members who voted against the proposal, explained his reasoning, stating that he thought the issue of how to pay for future growth/building should go to the voters of District One for a bond referendum or tax millage increase.