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Tampa Bay Chamber and Builders Association support raising Hillsborough school impact fees

“We see it as a necessity to keep commerce going and to support education in our community,” chamber chairwoman Maryann Ferenc said.
A house under construction last year in Waterset on Big Bend Road in Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach area. Times (2019)
A house under construction last year in Waterset on Big Bend Road in Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach area. Times (2019)
Published Mar. 4, 2020|Updated Mar. 4, 2020

TAMPA — Two influential business groups, the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Builders Association, are supporting what would be Hillsborough County’s first increase of its impact fees for schools since 2006.

The chamber sees the proposal as a way to support K-12 education in Hillsborough County, which chamber chairwoman Maryann Ferenc is essential to attract new business, make sure the local workforce is ready to compete for good jobs and advance prosperity generally.

“It makes sense for us to support this, because we see it as a necessity to keep commerce going and to support education in our community,” said Ferenc, who was on an “urgent issues” committee of chamber board members and leaders who voted unanimously Monday night to support increasing the fees, which would double in many cases to more than $8,000 per new house.

Related: Tampa Bay chamber targets workforce development and housing

“This is clearly needed, and our members are and have always been willing to pay their fair share,” builders association executive vice president Jennifer Motsinger said in a statement released by the group, which includes builders, developers, contractors, and other building-related businesses. “We recognize that our local economy is thriving and maintaining high quality schools is a key part of that.”

The proposal is headed for a public hearing at 6 p.m. tonight at the Hillsborough County Commission at the County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd.

School district officials have estimated that the increased fees would generate an additional $30 million a year for school construction, allowing them to accelerate plans to build a planned new elementary school near Apollo Beach, a new high school, and to convert a South Tampa middle school to a K-8 campus.

Related: Hillsborough school officials request impact fee hike

Current county school impact fees for new houses range from about $1,200 for a house smaller than 500 square feet to $5,200 for one larger than 4,000 square feet. Developers building houses from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet pay school impact fees of $4,000 to $4,764 per house.

As proposed, the new school impact fees would be about double the current fees for homes of 1,300 or more square feet. Fees for houses from 2,000 to 3,999 square feet would range from $8,227 to $9,369.

The increases would be smaller, and in some cases result in lower impact fees, for smaller houses.

A county study says the higher fees would help school officials keep pace with the rising costs of land and construction to build schools for Hillsborough’s growing student population.

Currently Hillsborough’s school impact fees are in the lower half of 26 Florida counties included in a study done for the County Commission. If adopted, the proposed higher fees would put the county in the top quarter of those counties.

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