The Villages Daily Sun had a story about impact fees on Jan. 13, (lead headline), and another on Jan. 14. In both the articles there were erroneous, false and misleading statements. The Jan. 13 front page article accuses new Commissioners Oren Miller and Gary Search of being anti-business. Why? Just because they are trying to do the right thing. They ran on a platform of reversing the 25 percent tax increase levied in 2019; which increase would benefit all the users of the new construction. Why should all homeowners be burdened with the additional costs instead of the people who are benefiting from the new construction? Impact fees are a one time charge for new or expanded infrastructure to accommodate new development. The 25 percent tax increase in 2019 is an annual increase to every homeowner, not a one time increase.
The article said that the tax increase supported the growing need for more law enforcement, ambulance services and schools as well as a future regional roadway network. That may be true however, the impact fees charged in Sumter County ONLY represent the costs of new roadways. The other costs mentioned are not even included in the calculation of the Sumter County impact fees.
In the next paragraph, the paper said that the tax increase was $348 ANNUALLY for a home with a taxable value of $255,700 and then goes on to say that in 2020 the commissioners reduced the tax by 4 percent. Of course the tax will go down every year, since the tax base goes up with all the new homes that are built by the developer. The Commissioners cannot take credit for something that is happening automatically. Remember, the impact fees are a ONE TIME CHARGE.
In another paragraph, economist Hank Fishkind, Ph.D, said, “When demand for housing is strong, the impact fee can be passed along…….” Well the impact fee increase to the developer for each new house built amounts to $1,458 which can easily be passed on to the buyer. How do I know? Just read the the headline in The Villages Daily Sun several days ago which touted, “The Villages Community Leads Its Category In Sales For The 11th Consecutive Year!” In my opinion, a $1500 increase in the price of a house in The Villages will not stop people from moving to “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.”
The balance of the article, almost another full page, continues to spread fear that Sumter County will not be competitive with other counties. With all the new housing going up from Fruitland Park to Leesburg, doesn’t it make sense that businesses want to be where the population is growing?
The Jan. 14 article, also on the front page, continues to spread the fear of implementing the impact fee increase. It goes on to say how small business owners are already having to rely on government funds just to get by, and now they want to take that away too with new taxes. What a false and misleading statement. Current small business owners will feel absolutely no negative effect of increasing impact fees since they are not doing any new building or developing. In fact, small business owners who own their business property will actually get a tax decrease in their county tax portion of their tax bill.
The article goes on to list many individual business owners who claim that the increase will have a detrimental effect on their businesses. However, they do not explain why. One business owner explains that if he wanted to build a new establishment, his one time cost would go from more than $100,000 to more than $350,000. According to the current impact fee schedule, I calculate his cost would go from approximately $50,000 to a little over $130,000. That’s no small change however, it is a one time charge for a building and a business that should last for many, many years. It’s also not unusual for a business to just take over an existing business and not incur any impact fee.
Even during this pandemic which sent the price of construction materials soaring, the article continues, single-family homes permits have grown by only 1.5 percent. Yes, that’s correct, permits went UP. I could go on and on pointing out the inconsistencies and misinformation in the two articles. The people opposing the increase are making assumptions. Are they correct? We won’t know unless we pass the increase immediately and see the results. Remember what they say about people who assume something.
Their is no need to wait until July and hear these same arguments all over again. Increase the impact fees to the full 100 percent that they should be and roll back the 25 percent tax increase. By doing that, the commissioners will be putting the increased county costs where they should be; with the beneficiaries of the additional development.
Jay Kaplan is a resident of The Villages.