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Give some serious thought to 60/40 split

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By The Staff

It’s not rocket science. If you clearcut the land, build multi-housing developments and move people in, you are going to increase the need for services. Those services include adequate infrastructure – roads, utilities, etc. – more law enforcement and emergency medical services.

And it’s a good bet that many of those moving into the new housing developments are children, children who need to be educated – in our schools that are already bursting at the seams.

With a struggling economy, double-digit unemployment and rising costs for gas and basic needs, there is little option for building new schools to accommodate the influx of additional students.

County and city governments and school districts are wrangling now over budgets for the fiscal year. Trying to pay for daily operations and new mandates leaves no funding for new school buildings. Taxpayers are still paying on bonds used to build and upgrade schools in the county in the last decade.

As the developments fill up, the children will come. And so will the need for more school space.

School officials and some Lancaster County Council members have suggested a 60/40 split in the development fees per rooftop that Council negotiates with developers. For example, if the county collects $10,000 per home, $4,000 of that would go to the school district.

For about a year, a committee, comprised of school board members and County Council members, has been discussing the effects of growth on the school district. South Carolina law prohibits school districts from charging impact fees to build new schools in response to growth.

But a county is permitted to charge development fees to share with the school district.

Lancaster County has been collecting development fees, or fees per home, from residential developers since it approved Sun City Carolina Lakes a few years ago.

Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore, school board chairwoman Charlene McGriff and district finance director Tony Walker discussed the idea with Council at its recent meeting.

Not only are Indian Land and Buford schools growing, but several schools across the county have reached or gone beyond capacity and use mobile classrooms, Moore said.

“The economy is going to hit us hard this year, but we have to provide the best quality facilities we can,” Moore said. “Our options are pretty limited. The state isn’t going to help us.”

School district officials have suggested that developers pay $6,411 per home to offset costs to taxpayers for new schools and school renovations. That’s the average per home contribution officials figured it would cost to build a new school using the average costs of building a new elementary school at $14.6 million, a new middle school at $16.5 million and a new high school at $23.9 million, as examples.

Council and the school district have decided to continue their discussion. And we think they should. The idea has some real possibilities.

The need for schools will only increase and we need to prepare for the increase. Why not let those who cause the need for new schools help pay for them?

The 60/40 split is one solution that needs serious consideration.