The Williamson County Commission voted 19 – 1 Monday night to increase its education impact fee amounts across the board, raising costs to home builders as much as 20 percent in some cases.
What is the education impact fee?
First implemented in early 2017, the education impact fee is a measure by the Williamson County government to help fund the construction of new schools, and places a one-time fee on new residential construction, with the fee amount dependent on square footage. As of Monday, the Education Impact Fee has already generated $42.1 million; $12.5 million was paid under protest.
Proponents of the fee argue that “growth should pay for growth:” meaning, more homes being developed means more residents – more residents means more children, and more children means more schools are needed to accommodate them. Those against the fee, which included multiple realtors at Monday’s meeting, argue that the fee disproportionately affects just one of many factors that is responsible for growth, and that a broader tax would be more fair. Opponents of the fee also argue that costs will simply be passed down to new home buyers, further exacerbating the county’s higher than average home prices.
Home builders lawsuit
The Home Builder’s Association of Middle Tennessee, along with eight developers, sued the Williamson County government shortly after the fee was implemented in 2017, arguing the fee to be improper. Furthermore, developers made the case that an education impact fee paid for a project in Spring Hill could go towards constructing a new school in Brentwood – something Attorney John Williams, who represented the Home Builders in a court proceeding earlier this year, argued was not legal.
The education impact fee increase
The education impact fee mandates that the fees be updated every three years, with multiple methodologies used to calculate the amount increases.
Before the vote Monday night, the education impact fees were $2,827 for residential development of 1,399 square feet or less, and $11,210 for residential development 3,400 square feet or more, with varying rates in between. Following the vote, the fee for residential development 1,399 square feet or less increased by 19.34% to $3,374, and the fee for residential development 3,400 square feet or more increased by 9.16% to $12,237.
The only commissioner to vote against the increase was Sean Aiello, who cited wanting more time for input from both the community and his constituents as his reasons for doing so.
“Some of the realtors that were here felt that it was kind of sprung upon them,” Aiello said. “We’re at that three year mark, but perhaps there wasn’t the same amount of notice to them, whether they were aware of it or not. I think that it would have behooved us to at least wait until November to vote.”