By Cindy Jackson
July 23, 2020
Said poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Here in Nassau County, it is during the summer that the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) turn their thoughts to figuring out how to finance the impending and almost exponential growth of the community. The Commissioners are and will continue to talk sales taxes, MSTUs (Municipal Service Taxing Units) and of course, they are talking impact fees.
To the uninitiated, “impact fees are a one-time fee collected when building permits are issued to fund future construction and improvements needed to accommodate growth,” as so succinctly defined in the recent County notice announcing the public hearing on the topic.
“Development pays for development,” is perhaps the most bandied about phrase when anyone discusses impact fees.
On the evening of July 16, 2020, Colin McAweeney, a Fiscal/Economic Analyst at TischlerBise with specialties in finance and economic development planning made a very detailed presentation to the BOCC. Having last spoken to the BOCC in December of 2019, McAweeney was there to discuss his firm’s final report – a Development Impact Fee Update as submitted on June 4, 2020.
With offices in Bethesda, Maryland, and Bradenton, Florida, TischlerBise has prepared over 900 impact fee studies and over 800 fiscal impact analyses for clients across the United States and Canada — as noted on the company’s website.
To ensure that all will go according to plan and to provide a scientific basis and evidence to support the County’s recommendations, Nassau County hired the firm of TIschlerBise last year.
For TischlerBise, impact fees are a science and it is science perfected. The three elements in any growth-related formula includes “need, benefit and proportionality.”
Nassau County currently collects five types of impact fees. They are:
• Education impact fees
• Recreation impact fees
• Administrative impact fees
• Fire impact fees and
• Law enforcement impact fees
The subject of the TischlerBise report, however, addresses just three types of impact fees:
Fire and Rescue
Important to keep in mind is that that all assumptions in the report and in the presentation are based on growth estimates for Nassau County assuming an additional 31,304 residents and 6,377 new jobs over the next ten years.
McAweeney started his summary by saying, “I’m sure you know Impact Fees 101.”
He went on to say that he would not cover things like “rational nexus” and other terminalities,” and began his discussion of a very detailed analysis. Whereas members of the BOCC may have heard those terms time and time again . . .it’s not so true for we residents.
First off, and for the sake of simplicity:
Administrative Impact Fees relate to office space including general government offices, like the James S. Page Complex, court offices and the detention center. Currently, Nassau County has 109,844 square feet of office space
Fire Impact Fees include the infrastructure components of fire stations and fire apparatuses and
Law Enforcement Impact Fees, as the name would imply, cover the sheriff’s office, the 911 call center, the Emergency Operations Center and sheriff vehicles.
Important to note, and as underscored many times in the TischlerBise report:
impact fees may NOT be used for operations, maintenance . . . or correcting existing deficiencies.
All of that being said, the calculation of impact fees can be reduced and simplified to a few main variables including:
• the cost of development related to capital improvements and
• allocating costs equitably based on various types of development (i.e. residential and nonresidential)
For Law Enforcement, impact fees must address both residential and nonresidential developments. As such, a factor added to calculating capital growth costs is something known as a vehicle trip (a factor universally recognized). The same is true for Fire and Rescue.
For instance, as of 2020, the Sheriff’s office has 175 vehicles and the existing service standard is based 1.47 vehicles per 1,000 residents. Add to that is .68 vehicles deemed necessary for 1,000 nonresident vehicle trips, and add to that a service level requires $62 per resident and $29 per nonresident establishment.
Using the projected growth rate of 30,211 residents and 18,264 jobs in the next ten years, Fire Impact fees also incorporate vehicle trips to calculate the cost of future needs.
The Capital Improvement Plan for 2019-2020 demonstrated the County’s commitment to increase its level of service which includes the planned construction of four more fire stations, one of which (Station 71 at Chester Road is already underway).
Add to fire stations is the need for additional vehicles. Currently, there is a total of 23 vehicles which translates into a use fee of .19 vehicles per 1,000 residents and .09 vehicles per nonresidential vehicle trips. Doing the math, and taking into account proportionate share and the end result is a vehicle capital cost of $85 per person.
But that’s not all. In addition to capital costs, there are all sorts of costs associated with employment, equipment and the list goes on. But only NEW construction is financed by impact fees.
For Fire and Rescue, projected future needs include 117,798 feet of facility space and an additional 64 new vehicles.
The County budgeting process is indeed incredibly complex. Not included in this feature are items like the small county sales surtax, grant monies received, credits accrued or adjustments based on service areas. For instance, Fernandina Beach, (while part of Nassau County) has its own police and fire departments while Callahan and Hilliard do not.
Said Office of Management and Budget Director, Megan Diehl, at the close of the official presentation provided by TischlerBise:
“I just want to say thank you to Colin (McAweeney, an analyst with TischlerBise) and TischlerBise for doing such a great job and a thorough job of the analysis here for the impact fee study,”
Ms. Diehl went on to say, “Colin and I have worked together . . . to address comments we received from the building community and others to ensure that we were applying credits fairly to builders and the County side and we’ve done a good job of that. Not short-changing the impact fee but then again, not double-charging folks.”
During period of questions and answers (Q&A) soon to be departing Commissioner Pat Edwards asked, “How often should this (impact fees) be reviewed?” Edwards went on to say . . . “A lot of money has been left on the table.”
Ms. Diehl noted the new ordinance called for a review period of five years.
The proposed impact fee ordinance was approved unanimously 5-0.
All hearings and meetings of the Board of County Commissioners can be accessed in real time or after the fact at https://nassauclerk.com/watch-meetings/
Should you want a copy of the TischlerBise Impact Fee Report, call the County Managers Office at (904) 530-6010.