The last time the impact fee charged to new homes in St. Mary’s County was adjusted was 13 years ago, when there were at least 20 percent fewer people living here. The fee was increased in 2000 from $2,000 to $4,500 on each new home, with the money intended to cover the impact on schools, roads and parks.
The population of St. Mary’s was 86,211 people in 2000 and 107,844 in 2011. Updated population numbers are due this month.
Now, St. Mary’s County government finance staff calculates the actual impact of a new home on the county’s infrastructure is $15,464.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) suggested on Monday a study of the impact fee, but three other commissioners weren’t interested. “Essentially we’re giving an $11,000 discount” to those building new homes in St. Mary’s, he said. “We continue to grow in our impact; the fee remains constant.”
Phil Shire, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management, said in fiscal 2012, which ended last June, there were 641 building permits issued for new homes, with 540 occupancy permits, meaning homes ready to move into. The department reported there were 42,371 homes in St. Mary’s in 2009. The housing market has been filling in existing lots, rather than creating new lots right now, he said. However, he said he incorrectly stated the number during Monday’s meeting, putting the number of new homes last year around 200.
Hearing that, Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said, “Basically our growth is at a minimum,” who was supportive of a study.
“Each time you raise a cost, you’re creating more disincentives for growth,” said Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R).
“Without the study, we don’t even know if we should,” Morris said.
“And we could see less [growth], based on sequestration,” Jarboe said, if federal spending is reduced at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
Three of the commissioners — Jarboe, Cindy Jones (R) and President Jack Russell (D) said they were not interested in studying the impact fee.
According to finance staff’s work, a new home has an impact of $12,862 on the school system, $1,797 on county roads and $805 on county parks.
The impact fee is also supplemented by county transfer taxes on real estate transactions, recordation fees and leftover funds from the operating budget, which reduces the need to borrow money for construction projects.
The county’s total proposed building budget from fiscal 2014 to 2019 is about $217 million, including public school projects. Finance staff reported $68.9 million was available from state and federal sources, $17.7 million available from the impact fee portion for schools, $1.7 million from the impact fee on roads, $2.8 million from the impact fee on parks and $27.15 million from transfer taxes.
The St. Mary’s County transfer tax is 1 percent of the property transfer value. The recordation fee is $4 per each $500 of value when a property is sold with a title recorded.