Enacted last spring by the County Commission, the Education Impact Fee to help fund new school construction has been harried by a lawsuit against it by developers.
The fee levies a tax on new homes being built on a sliding scale based on square footage, maxing out at a little more than $13,000 per new home. It is estimated to be able to raise as much as $180 million over six years. However, the county has not been able to use any of the $8.3 million raised so far because of the ongoing lawsuit by a group of home developers.
Now, County Commissioner Gregg Lawrence is fighting back. He started an online petition calling on the developers to drop the suit.
“At no time during this process were any objections raised by the local homebuilders association,” Lawrence wrote in the petition. “However; six months after the resolution was passed 8 homebuilders chose to file a lawsuit against the county.”
614 people have signed the petition as of Tuesday morning.
“Williamson County Schools create a significant financial benefit to Williamson County Home Builders,” the petition states. “They recognize the value of our schools to new residents and use them to market their new homes. The impact fee is simply a way for the county to collect new revenue from the source that is creating the pressing need for more capital expenditures and reducing the tax burden on existing residents.”
The Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee, and eight home builders are part of the suit against the county: Drees Premier Homes, Ole South Properties Inc., Regent Homes Inc., Aspen Construction LLC, Barlow Builders, The Jones Company of TN, Ridgemont Homes and Gateway Mosby of Cool Springs — filed the complaint against the fee in August.
The fee is supposed to be due when a builder applies for a permit to construct a residential structure on a lot that did not previously have a home on it.
The fee will phased in. Beginning on March 1 2017, permits issued will be assessed 50 percent of the fee. After Sept. 1, 2017, the full fee began to be charged.
The petition comes in the face of a recent five-year plan for new Williamson County Schools construction, that states a need for more than $400 million to build new schools, or expand existing ones. The district expects 20,000 new students over the next decade. Currently enrollment is more than 39,000.
The graduated fee starts at $3,670 per single-family home and goes up to $13,566 as square footage increases, under the assumption that a larger home, i.e. more bedrooms, will have more school-age children living there during the lifespan of the house.
Because Franklin Special School District already has a similar fee, it is lower inside FSSD boundaries.
The fee has been endorsed by the Williamson County Realtors Association has also publicly stated its opposition to the fee, but is not a party to the lawsuit.