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Hillsborough just doubled its school impact fees

In a surprise vote, the County Commission unanimously approved increasing developer fees. The money is needed to build the new schools to deal with heavy population growth.
Hillsborough Commissioner Les Miller said the school impact fee increase clearly had the votes - so he called the question in a lightning-fast public hearing on Wednesday.
Hillsborough Commissioner Les Miller said the school impact fee increase clearly had the votes - so he called the question in a lightning-fast public hearing on Wednesday. [ Times (2017) ]
Published Mar. 4, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

TAMPA — In a lightning-fast meeting, the Hillsborough County Commission voted 6-0 on Wednesday evening to raise the impact fees that housing developers pay to provide badly needed funds for the next generation of county schools.

Supporters of the school system had filed into the meeting room to speak at a public hearing on the issue.

But minutes into the meeting, Commission chair Les Miller said it was apparent that “we’ve got the votes to pass this thing tonight.”

After asking if there was any opposition, and hearing none, he cut the event short so Commissioner Kimberly Overman could call for a vote.

It passed unanimously. Commission member Stacy White absent.

The Hillsborough County School District is struggling to address the heavy population growth in the rural areas around Ruskin, Apollo Beach and Wimauma. Studies show the district, already the nation’s seventh-largest, needs to open about 38 more schools in the next 15 years to keep up with future student needs.

But the district is still carrying the debt incurred to build schools for the last construction boom that started in the 1990s. And Hillsborough’s impact fees, which have remained unchanged since 2006, are relatively low at about $4,000 for a single-family, detached home.

The new impact fee structure will raise the rate to more than $8,000 per home.

Various business groups, including the Tampa Bay Builders Association and a subgroup of the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, in recent weeks had voiced support for the raising the fees.

The changes take effect in June. They are expected to raise nearly $30 million a year, which can be used for school construction.