Orange County

NC Senate seals fate of Orange County school construction fee

A Senate vote Monday night left Orange County just a step away from losing its ability to charge fees on new housing that help pay for local schools construction.

House Bill 406 was approved 35-13 during a quick vote that fell largely along party lines. Orange County’s Democratic Sen. Valerie Foushee was absent during the vote.

As a local bill, HB406 does not require the governor’s signature. It will become law once the House and Senate leaders sign it.

The county has levied the impact fee on single- and multifamily homes since getting authorization from the General Assembly in 1987. The fee was based until this year on the type of home and whether it was located in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools or Orange County Schools district.

The commissioners voted in November to link the fee amount to the number of bedrooms.

Surry County Republican Rep. Sarah Stevens first proposed the bill in March, in response to a Chapel Hill apartment owner who was concerned about how the county’s recent fee increase would affect the the Grove Park redevelopment project.

The property owner also filed an appeal with the Orange County Board of Commissioners, which agreed to give the owner more time to meet requirements that would keep the fee at the previous rate.

The board voted in May to roll back the impact fee increase and set a one-year moratorium so the county could study the issue.

The General Assembly’s action will require the county to make up nearly $3 million in school construction funding – about 2 cents on the county’s tax rate.

A separate bill that Stevens filed – HB436 – would have repealed impact fees in 11 communities. However, that bill was delayed while the state studies the impact fee issue.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb