When consultants for the School District of Osceola County first presented their recommendations for updating the county’s school impact fees, it looked like the biggest change would be a near-elimination of fees for studio and one-bedroom apartments. The rest of the categories would see only minor changes.
But after a workshop with school board members last month, the team from Tischler-Bise presented a second option for discussion that would significantly raise the costs across most new home categories. Single-family homes would be the most impacted with rates going to $12,848 — an 8.6% increase on what is already the highest school impact fee in Florida.
The School board was scheduled to discuss the latest recommendation at its July 13 board meeting. But the SDOC has pulled the item from the agenda. The second option would have affected all housing categories.
“We have tasked our consultant with doing some further work on the cost of construction component and separate studio fee,” CFO Sarah Graber said. “We will provide an update at a future school board meeting and continue to keep all stakeholder groups informed as the process continues.”
Under the most recent proposal, apartment developers would take another big hit, seeing their impact fees go up 7%, from $11,362 to $12,165. The main exception would be studio units no larger than 600 square feet, which would be charged $355 per unit.
The proposed rate for townhomes would increase 8.4%, to $8,229. The latest chart also shows a potential 10.6% increase in rates for condos. But most new condos built in Osceola County are short-term rental units, so they would qualify for a lower school impact fee.
The second, more expensive recommendation was prompted by feedback from school board members during the June workshop. Several members thought the consultants used outdated data to calculate construction costs for school facilities.
Board members said the cost per square foot for high schools should be closer to $300. One member asked Cason Bise to eliminate the 2017 data from the formula, but Bise refused, saying they couldn’t “cherry-pick” the data.
“You have to use the data that’s available,” Bise said. “Everything else is just speculation. We might have a better leg to stand on if we had a school under construction now where it’s coming in at $330 per square foot.”
But after the discussion, he reworked the formula that converts the actual construction costs to 2021 dollars, based on the Engineering-News Record Construction Cost Index. The escalator adds between $17 and $23 per square foot to the new construction cost for new school facilities.
In Osceola, the district is projecting the county population will grow by 32% through the end of this decade. That translates to 123,000 more residents and 52,600 new homes by 2030 — and 15,350 new students.
SDOC will be in building mode over the next three years, with plans to open a new K-5 at Celebration Island Village in 2023. In 2024, the district will open three new K-8 schools, each designed for 1,274 students, at the Knightsbridge site on S. Poinciana Boulevard and in two master-planned communities: Kindred and Sunbridge.