SUMMERVILLE — The town of Summerville is poised to raise its impact fees to bring in additional funds for addressing the area's booming growth.
"We're way behind the bar," said Councilman Bob Jackson. "I think we need this."
Impact fees are one-time payments placed only on new construction or developments in town. They can apply to commercial and residential spaces and go toward park and recreation, fire protection and other municipal services.
On Feb. 10, Town Council members voted 6-1 to give initial approval to an ordinance to update the cost of the payments. A secondary approval is also required before the costs officially increase.
When approved, the cost for municipal services will increase from around $170 to more than $600. Fire protection costs will grow from between $120 and $310 to between $290 and $490.
Lastly, parks and recreation will move from a little over $100 to more than $260. Only residential developments pay for impact fees associated with parks and recreation.
Impact fees are calculated based on those costs, as well as the dwelling units or amount of square footage used by a development and the average employee space ratio or average person per household.
The purpose of the fees is to address the financial burden of a new development on the town. They can be used to fund buildings that fall into the three town service categories or support some pre-approved capital improvement plans.
During the council meeting, Mayor Ricky Waring pushed his support for the impact fee increase. But he also emphasized how serious the financial situation is in town with its growth.
"We're operating on a shoestring budget," he said.
According to Waring, the town is behind financially and the impact fees might be the only way for it to catch up.
In December 2020, the town's actual year-to-date total revenue balance was more than $33 million. The town's expenditure balance was higher than $42 million. The impact fee balance was a little over $1 million.
In the past couple of years, the town has also seen an increase in residential developments but not a comparable increase in commercial spaces.
Those commercial spaces bring more income into the town. In comparison, the residential spaces require more use of town services.
Following a study, officials learned that the town's current impact fee was losing its effectiveness, since the cost hadn't been altered in more than 20 years.
Officials also pointed to the need to support fire services. Currently Summerville Fire and Rescue department's training center is "patched together with Band-Aids."
Councilman Bill McIntosh was the lone voice speaking against the impact fee increase. He said he isn't philosophically opposed to the payments.
He said he wants the community to understand that the fees will not pay for things like traffic improvements or overcrowded schools. They can only go toward new buildings like fire stations and courthouses and some capital improvement plans.
McIntosh also argued that increasing the fee might force the town to chase after new developments for money.
Waring countered and said that the less money the town has to directly spend on those buildings, the more funds they'll have available to do other things to address the growth.
A second reading of the ordinance is still required in order for the increase in fees to be approved.
McIntosh said he plans to make a stronger case against the fee increase at that meeting.