Impact fees for schools approved

After 13-year hiatus, developers will once again pay fees to offset costs of growth.

Commissioners and School Board members meet together during the Joint Workshop with the Marion County Commission and the Marion County Public School Board at the Webber Center at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, August 11, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

Home » Education
Posted March 6, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

The battle to reinstate school impact fees has finally come to a close after nearly two years of tireless backing from the Marion County School Board.

The Marion County Commission voted yes on Tuesday to reinstate impact fees—one-time payments made by developers for each new home built to support the cost of building new schools. The county suspended impact fees in 2011 during the economic recession.

School district staff has been working on finding a way to reinstate the fees since May 2022, when the school board was presented with updated statistics on student population growth and many schools’ issues with reaching capacity due to lack of space.

School Board Chair Nancy Thrower spoke before county commissioners before their vote, urging them to approve the impact fee ordinance because it is in the best interest of the county’s schools.

“Enrollment in Marion County Public Schools is at an all-time high with new students enrolling daily, thus creating the urgent need to build more schools and expand capacity at existing schools,” she said.

After an extensive study, the consulting firm Benesch recommended the school board ask the commissioners to reinstate school impact fees at 100% of its recommendation, which would set an impact fee of $10,693 for each single-family home built. By comparison, the single-family home impact fee was $3,967 when it was suspended in 2011.

After outcry from local developers over how a $10,000 impact fee would negatively impact affordable housing and other developments, the school board decided to ask for an impact fee of 40% of Benesch’s recommendation, or $4,307 per single-family home.

School district staff has recommended that five new schools and nine wings to additional schools be built by the year 2038 to keep up with the projected 9% increase in student enrollment.

The projected cost of both new construction and maintenance by the year 2038 will total approximately $1.8 billion.

The extensive progress of negotiations between the school board, county and city of Ocala led the school board to ask Benesch to return for more information to satisfy the city’s qualms.

Ocala officials argued against the rate proposed for multifamily housing, insisting that many of the apartment buildings being built in the city would be less likely to house students, and in turn asked for more specific categories for rates based on square footage.

The city eventually got on board after given the opportunity to weigh in on multifamily rates.

“The City of Ocala will collect the fee in accordance with the interlocal agreement between the parties,” wrote City Manager Peter Lee. “We look forward to continuing the work with the school district and the county as a part of the Technical Working Group and we anticipate transparency, clarity and accountability of all parties moving forward.” 

The educational impact fee rates were finalized as follows:

Multifamily (condominiums), per dwelling unit: $1,990

Mobile home park, per dwelling unit: $2,866

Single-family attached/townhouse, per dwelling unit: $2,020

Single-family detached/mobile home on a lot, per dwelling unit: $4,307

Multifamily apartment; 1 to 700 square feet: $1,604

Multifamily apartment; 701 to 900 square feet: $3,847

Multifamily apartment; 901 to 1,200 square feet: $4,337

Multifamily apartment; Greater than 1,200 square feet: $5,525


Impact fees must be paid for each housing unit with a permit approved after March 5, 2024.

The debate over the past several months has often left onlookers unsure whether impact fees would be reinstated due to disagreements over the school board’s decision to pursue a sales tax in addition to the impact fees. Due to legislation at the state level, there are restrictions on local governments for increasing impact fees, including needing a supermajority vote from the commission.

Commission Chair Michelle Stone warned school board members not to repeat actions she believes were mistakes made when impact fees were last in effect.

“I’m being very clear that I would expect that you have better plans in place for the future going forward for if and when you want to increase them or if you ever need to pause them again,” Stone said. “The future of our community is counting on that. And I would also ask that as you are planning for these future schools, that you are planning for how education will take place in the future.”

Commissioner Carl Zalak voted yes to the impact fee ordinance, although he has expressed concern over the school board simultaneously pursuing a half-cent sales tax increase, which will be on the 2024 general election ballot along with the county’s request for a penny increase in the 7% sales tax for infrastructure and public safety.

“Fundamentally, I believe in the process of trying to figure out the very best way of how to fund and what taxation should look like,’’ Zalak said. “What I do know is that we shouldn’t pass growth impacts onto people that are already here, who have been paying school board taxes for generations. That should try to come from growth, at least to the best of our ability.”

The commission also passed a measure stating that if anyone tries to contest the education impact fees, the school board would be responsible for all legal fees for the county. The county previously brought up concerns about a lawsuit against Santa Rosa County, which was sued over the way officials there instated impact fees.

With the passing of the impact fee ordinance, the school district can now begin to plan construction of new schools and add wings to existing schools.

“The Marion County School Board wishes to acknowledge the collaboration of stakeholders throughout the county,” Thrower said. “We also acknowledge the many joint and individual meetings that the Marion County School Board and the Marion County Board of County Commissioners have offered to receive public comment.”

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