School Impact Fees Fail in the Georgia House

Aerial photo of Birch Creek Elementary construction progress as of July 2023 (MEJA Construction photo).
Birch Creek Elementary Construction Progress July 2023 (MEJA Construction photo)

A draft constitutional amendment to allow school development impact fees in Georgia failed to receive enough votes in the state house. The state senate approved the measure earlier in the session.

Georgia’s current impact fee structure excludes schools from the eligible categories. Our neighbors to the south, Florida, have levied school impact fees since the early 1990s.1

School Impact Fees in Georgia

Senate Resolution 189, sponsored by Senator Dolezal of Forsyth County, would amend the Georgia Constitution to allow school impact fees. Impact fees are paid by developers on new construction. School impact fees would apply to new housing. For a constitutional amendment to pass, the resolution needs a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers. The voters of Georgia would then consider the measure via a statewide referendum.

SR 189 passed the state senate by a vote of 49–2 on February 29, 2024. The state house voted on the measure on March 28. It failed 88 votes yes to 84 votes no. The measure required 120 votes to pass.

Because the measure failed, it must wait until 2026 before there’s another opportunity to consider it. This is because constitutional amendments can only be the November ballot in even years. Whether to allow school impact fees has been debated since at least 2005.2

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High-Growth School Districts

Senate Bill 208 was the companion legislation to SR 189. It provided the framework under which school impact fees could occur, if SR 189 passed. The bill called for school impact fees in high-growth school districts only. The definition of a high-growth school district includes the following:

  • At least 20% growth in student enrollment during the past ten years, and
  • At least $250 million spent on building new classroom facilities within the last ten years.

Presently, the only school district which meets this criteria is Forsyth County. They have experienced a 35% increase in enrollment over the past decade. By comparison, enrollment in Henry County Schools has increased 6.2% from 2013 to 2023.

In addition, Forsyth County has expended over $400 million to build nine new schools. Over the long-term, Forsyth County Schools has opened at least one new school building for 23 consecutive school years.

SB 208 passed the state senate 49-2. Because the house rejected the constitutional amendment, they did not consider SB 208.

Building New Schools Today

Right now, school districts in Georgia have generally two options to pay for new schools. They are the education SPLOST sales tax program and incurring bond debt. Local school districts will frequently consolidate these options into one referendum for voters to consider. Voters in Henry County last considered this referendum in March 2021. The bond debt is then repaid from sales tax and property tax.

The cost to build a new school is tens of millions of dollars. Henry County is presently building a new elementary school. The construction cost is $34.8 million. The district completed McDonough High & Middle School in 2019 at a total cost of $80 million.

1) School Impact Fees in Florida, published November 1998. 2) Development Impact Fees for Schools in Georgia, August 2005. Featured image shows construction at Birch Creek Elementary School. MEJA Construction and Henry County Schools photo.

About Clayton 1482 Articles
Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of MHF News. He founded the site in 2017 to highlight transportation projects. Over time, he began covering other topics like new development so residents can best know what’s happening in our community.