Local News

Franklin Co. Looks At Builder Fees To Finance School Construction

Posted November 6, 2006 8:35 a.m. EST

— Franklin County commissioners and the Franklin County Board of Education were expected to meet Monday night to discuss a new plan to finance school construction.

Earlier this year, voters rejected a construction bond that would have funded the development of more schools. Development fees, some say, could help finance more construction without voter approval.

"If developers come in and are going to build, and facilities are not there, then they are going to have to pay for that," said County Commission Chairman Sidney Duston.

The county plan is called the Adequate Public Schools Ordinance, but builders call it an impact fee that varies from $800 per house near middle schools to more than $1,000 for elementary schools and up to $1,200 per home near a high school.

Builders typically pay impact fees to a municipality to cover costs of development, such as road construction.

Dunston, however, said the builders' fees are not impact fees because they are "strictly voluntary."

"It's not a voluntary fee against homeowners. It's a mandatory tax is what it is," said Matthew Winslow with the Franklin County Home Builders Association, which is opposed to any fees on new home construction.

"It's a small Band-Aid on a problem," Winslow said. "The real solution is economic development."

Durham County's attempt at impact fees was rejected in the courts when a judge ruled them illegal because the county didn't have state approval. The county was ordered to repay $8 million to builders who paid the fees before the ruling. Granville County's impact fee for schools was also ruled illegal.

Franklin County, however, insists its proposed ordinance would not be called an impact fee.