In November, I get to tell Horry County Council what I think about imposing impact fees on new residences and businesses.
So will you.
That’s because county council voted recently to put the question of impact fees on the general election ballot.
The referendum, while non-binding, will let county council determine if voters favor imposing impact fees in the future.
I, for one, will vote yes on this measure, which is long overdue.
I’ve been concerned for quite some time that growth in Horry County doesn’t seem to pay for itself.
Each new home and business built adds to the tax base. It looks like the new taxes would pay for the burden put on existing infrastructure.
But apparently it doesn’t.
Every year Horry County Council and the Horry County Board of Education struggle to make ends meet. The threat of a general tax increase seems to always loom on the horizon.
To keep up with thousands of students moving into the county with their parents, the school district has to build new schools.
The county has to build new fire stations, new libraries and new government buildings to keep up with the growth.
I think it is only fair that when someone moves into Horry County they pay for the impact they have on the infrastructure.
Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught has suggested imposing a $1,000 to $2,000 impact fee on new residences and businesses.
I think that figure is low and won’t generate the kind of income needed to compensate for the extra demands put on the infrastructure.
If the referendum on impact fees passes, and I believe it will, county council needs to make a much deeper study of impact fees to determine a funding level that will truly make a difference to the county’s treasury.
Even if the referendum passes, it could be years before impact fees are assessed because of archaic state laws.
For example, under state law, impact fees can pay only for building or capital projects (facilities, infrastructure) and cannot be used for operations (employee salaries). State law also requires that the projects funded by the fees be started within three years of the levies being collected. That’s problematic because impact fee revenue often doesn’t come in quickly enough to begin construction. If a project doesn't start on time, the county must refund the money.
The law also stipulates that the fees cover projects in the specific communities where they are collected. Council members want this requirement changed. They believe they should be allowed to spend impact fee revenues countywide.
Real estate developers fear impact fees could have a negative impact fee on sales.
Several studies involving communities that have imposed impact fees show that the fees have little impact on sales.
Impact fees? Count me in.