SUMMERVILLE — After years of debate and failed efforts, a bill to let Dorchester District 2 charge builders an extra fee to help pay for new schools passed the Legislature on Wednesday.
The bill allows the school board to charge up to $2,500 on every new house built in the district.
Sen. Mike Rose, R-Summerville, pushed the bill through the Senate with no limits on what the school board can charge builders. In the House, Reps. Annette Young and Jenny Horne, also Summerville Republicans, limited the impact fees to $2,500 after objections from builders and real estate agents.
Rose said he is not in favor of putting limits on the
school board but accepted the deal Wednesday. The Senate had no objections, since the law applies only to District 2.
"I think the amount is insufficient, but that's the best I can do," Rose said. "The Realtors are working very hard to kill the whole thing. I took the bird in the hand. This is a start."
Rose said he will introduce another bill with higher limits.
"State law allows counties and municipalities to approve unlimited development," he said. "I'm just trying to give school districts the authority to protect themselves."
The bill cleared the Senate by general consent, not needing a formal vote since it was local legislation.
The S.C. Association of Realtors is researching whether it's legal to change state law through local legislation, and also could ask Gov. Mark Sanford to veto it, Chief Executive Officer Nick Kremydas said last week.
Builders pass on impact fees to buyers, so the bill will make houses more expensive, which is not a good idea in this market, he said. It's also unfair to tax new-home buyers for schools that will also be used by other homeowners and renters, he said.
Joel Sawyer, Sanford's press secretary, said the governor's staff will study the bill.
"We're going to have to take a look when it comes to our desk, because it only deals with one county," Sawyer said. "We'll study it both from a legal and constitutional standpoint."
Dorchester County Council Chairman Jamie Feltner was not in favor of limiting the impact fees, but was pushing for a compromise of $8,000 if there had to be a limit.
"I'm not happy with the amendments," Feltner said Wednesday. "This bill actually puts the school board in a worse position."
The school district can't build schools for $2,500 a house, so the bill won't accomplish anything, he said. In fact, builders may use it as an excuse to avoid agreements for residential improvement districts, where new residents would pay special taxes to build more schools.
Summerville Town Council passed a resolution supporting the bill as amended Wednesday. Howard Bridgman, Mike Dawson and Bob Jackson voted against the resolution because they were against putting limits on the school board.
The Senate also approved a bill allowing the Jasper County school board to charge impact fees. That bill now goes to the House.
A bill allowing Beaufort County to charge impact fees is awaiting final approval in the Senate before heading to the House. Neither the Jasper nor Beaufort bills have limits on the impact fees.