I vote ‘’YES’’ for Flagler School’s Millage Increase but It’s Time to Suspend School Impact Fees

School impact fees based on the ‘’one new school per year’’ projections before the housing bubble burst can no longer be justified.

Palm Coast, FL – May 28, 2013 – Residents of Flagler County face a contentious special election on June 7, 2013. What is at stake is a School Board proposal to increase the property tax millage rate by 0.5 Mills for a four-year period. On one side are those that firmly believe that further budget cuts will be harmful to our students. The other side sees existing wasteful spending that will only be encouraged by a YES vote.
One half of the proposed increase already exists but is set to expire. So technically, it’s not an increase, just an extension. The other half is truly an increase in the millage rate, but in nearly all cases, it will not constitute an increase in taxes paid by individual property owners vs. what they paid over the past several years because the new millage will be applied to substantially reduced property values.
For a thorough understanding of this, I encourage you to read Jay Gardner’s excellent explanation in the Palm Coast Observer. Jay tells how the schools have suffered a 42.6% decline in school taxes levied between 2007 and 2012. Per student spending is down 40.0% while the average tax per home has dropped 31.8% over the same period.
As an economic development advocate, I favor supporting a top-notch school system. Such a system will help attract new employers with a need for a well educated work force. Good schools also make it easier for these new companies to attract employees that will want a good educational environment for their children.
That said, I strongly oppose the continuation of the current $3,600 School Impact Fee levied on every new single-family home built in Flagler County. The fee was established when Palm Coast and Flagler were respectively the fastest growing city and county in the nation. It looked then like the school district would need at least one new school every year for the foreseeable future.
Well that didn’t happen. Flagler County Schools now have empty classrooms with enrollment on the decline.  There has been talk that one or two schools might be closed next year. Yet the impact fees keep rolling in; over half a million dollars so far this year. Unfortunately, the impact fee money must be used for capital projects rather than the kind of spending that will be supported by the millage increase. It is of no help to the funding deprived School District. It simply accumulates.
I support and will vote for the millage rate increase, but I am troubled. I’m troubled because impact fees are paid from within the county, as are property taxes. The School Board pulled out the stops to rally support for a Yes vote on June 6, but that same Board passed up an opportunity earlier this year to suspend school impact fees, a move that may have spurred further new construction and more jobs.
I am troubled because with no new schools on the horizon, impact fees cannot be justified. There is no discernible need. Nobody can make an honest argument for their continuance. In all fairness to Flagler property owners and voters, I urge the School Board to revisit this issue.
6 replies
  1. Cyd Weeks
    Cyd Weeks says:

    The school taxes

    I voted no. They aren’t playing fair IMO so until they do so, I’m going to continue to vote against them. Yes, we need good schools and we have good schools and they will continue to get the funding from the impact fees because building is picking up. Let them use that.

  2. Kim Medley
    Kim Medley says:

    I’m Troubled, So I’m Voting "Yes&quot

    I applaud your efforts to explain the inexplicable decision by the School Board and the District; however, the approach to the entire process is that which has folks up in arms. The smarter approach would have been to seek a simple extension of the existing .25 levy and also provide additional cuts. Yes, the students have flourished in spite of the cuts already realized; and, I would submit they are capable of meeting the additional challenges such as the ones discussed in recent board meetings. When revenues are down, regardless of why, real cuts are essential if the School District is to have any credibility with the voters when seeking not only an extension; but, additional taxes. That is not what has happened to date.

    A Special Election has been called which is expected to cost between $80 and $100 thousand. This issue should have been on the General Election ballot for two reasons. One, the decision sought would have been made by the majority of voters, rather than a minority, as is seen with a Special Election. Second, the School Board would have had a better understanding of its budget without relying on a school shooting tragedy to manipulate voters. Those seeking election last year would have also been asked to justify the need for the additional money to the voters.

    Just look at the Special Election signs ordered by the SOE! For the most part, the content is barely visible. How much did those cost and how will they be able to be re-used? Regardless of the entity footing the bill, School Board, BOCC, or the SOE, we the taxpayers are paying for a Special Election that will yield a low voter turnout. The School Board had an opportunity to demonstrate a sense of responsibility for the cost when the SOE presented the option of an all-mail election process. Not only was this turned down; the election was moved from a normal Tuesday to a Friday. The all-mail election is a process many counties and cities use for such referendums. A ballot is mailed to all registered voters. Neither early voting nor precinct expenses are incurred when this option is selected. When the SOE pointed out the costs the response, from the BOCC, and I suspect the School Board was ‘we, the BOCC are paying for it so it doesn’t matter’. That is a rather arrogant attitude to have when asking for more money.

    Another issue, in my opinion, is that of the manipulation by certain School Board members and the use of public funds. The signs lining the parent/student pick-up drives at all of the schools are a wonderful example. IMO, they violate F.S. 106.113(2) and DOE Advisory Opinions #10-06 and #12-05; yet, when brought to the attention of the School District’s attorney, there is an atmosphere of we don’t care and as long as the signs do not include the “magic words” from Buckley v. Valeo, then laws haven’t been violated. The issue has been framed so that anyone who dares to voice criticism is somehow anti-education and anti-children. The use of Sandy Hook as the “game changer”, when it has been admitted that all the security measures in place at Sandy Hook would not have stopped Adam Lanza, is the ultimate in manipulation. By immediately looking to go to the well and draw out more taxes, possible outside of the box ideas and inviting the private sector to address some of these concerns were never even considered.

    While I respect your decision to support the referendum, IMO, it is time for government entities to take a closer look in the mirror, and make those harder decisions. Balancing the budget is admirable and appreciated; but, as the most recent meetings have demonstrated, there are more cuts that can be made and our students and parents have the intelligence and the capacity to still reach the goals achieved to date. Our parents and grandparents were able to do more with less and quite honestly it is time for this generation to learn those same lessons.

    Vote No!

  3. Brad West
    Brad West says:


    Schools do matter and we have good schools. We do partly because we put our schools first locally and all give them the most in our annual property taxes. But what has come to light throughout this process is out-of-control and wasteful leadership. $10,000 for awards, $30,000+ extra for out-of county graduations, $80,000+ for a vote now that could have been free this past November. We can even have the 45 minutes without spending $2 million to get it, but our leadership insists on hiring 40 more teachers to bring back 45 minutes?! Throwing more into a leaking bucket without fixing the bucket first solves nothing. In fact, it will cause far more damage in the long run locally that any benefit.

    2007 is not a time to reference realistic budget expectation just as it’s not a time to reference for realistic home values. You know that (or should). You also know that out of control tax increases (and the schools will not stop seeking further tax increases beyond the large amount every homeowner already pays to them) is a great way to negatively impact a fragile local real estate recovery. Another decline at this stage and our schools will be the least of this County’s worries.

    We put our schools first. We give them the most already. Throwing more money at something that is wasting and refusing to look at reasonable alternatives when the whole of our county is also facing budget shortfalls is just plain irresponsible. Our homes are not our schools ATM machine. Enough is enough.

  4. Morgan Monaco
    Morgan Monaco says:

    You are wrong

    When I got my house 2 years ago They hit me with the $3600 school taxes. I see no reason why any body else should be exempt.
    ..Or give me my money back..
    …As far of the june 7 you are wrong again. These gov. yoyo’s spended the $$$ at the wrong places. No news taxes needed for the schools

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