About a year ago, the consulting firm Tindale Oliver was hired by the school district to develop a long range plan for school needs accommodating the predicted growth of Hernando County within the next 15 years. They were also tasked with examining possible impact fees to support new school construction.
Tindale Oliver explored an average growth rate of 1000 new homes per year and a high growth rate of 1500 new homes per year based on recent studies, the Hernando County Long Range Transportation Plan and Hernando County development data.
The consultants report that under the average growth figure, the school district will need to add 4 new elementary schools between 2020 and 2034. Steve Tindale, President/CEO of Tindale Oliver remarked that this is not an unusual finding and it is common for a school district to need to add elementary schools over a long period of time as they are smaller and cover more grade levels. Tindale Oliver found using the high growth model, the district will need to add 6 elementary schools and 1 high school.
The consultants are optimistic that in reality, the growth of the county will be closer to the 1000 new homes per year rather than the 1500 per year figure.
The new school construction expenditures for average growth is estimated to be $89,156,000 between 2020 and 2034. Using Department of Education construction cost estimates, that number comes in a bit lower at $63,428,400.
For the higher growth scenario, new school construction expenditures are estimated at $191,928,000. Again using DOE figures for construction costs, that number is estimated at $147,618,200.
The combination of continuing the half cent sales tax beyond 2026 and impact fee increases is proposed for generating the revenue to pay for the new school construction costs along with debt and maintenance related costs which make up a more considerable portion of the expenditures.
An impact fee is a one time charge for new development in order to cover the cost of new facilities. There are different types of impact fees imposed on new construction such as a fee to support schools and another to support roads and transportation in the county. In the case of school impact fees, the fee is only collected from residential land uses. The school impact fee was suspended between Nov. 2011 and March 2016 due to a slower building and real estate market.
Tindale Oliver suggests an increase of school impact fees from $2133 for Single Family Residential/Mobile Home to $6352.
Increases in other residential categories include:
Townhouse/Condo from $1628 to $2914
Multi Family from $1680 to $6394
Mobile Home Park: from $955 to $1761.
Eric Van Boogaard, Director of Facilities Operations for the school district remarked that there should be a longer public comment and review period for this issue in order to meet with organizations such as the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, the Nature Coast Builders Alliance and the Hernando County Realtors Association.
After public review, the matter will be brought before the school board for final review and then sent to the Board of County Commissioners.