School Concurrency is the coordinated planning for future growth to ensure that school capacity is available at the time of impact of residential development. Flagler County has seen significant residential growth over the past several years and with it increased enrollment. This growth is expected to continue in the future, and it is imperative that we plan for it now
Flagler County Residential Growth
Approximately 600 new students countywide since 2018
Approximately 187 new students in Flagler Schools during the 2021–22 school year
Approximately 8,400 new homes planned for Flagler County with reserved space for approximately 1,500 students
Approximately 4,500 new homes in the early planning process, resulting in approximately 800 additional students
Approximately 150 lots for new homes are permitted each month in Palm Coast.
To plan for future growth, Flagler Schools has rezoned our middle and high schools. Our current district facilities Five-Year Work Plan contains plans for a Matanzas High School addition, construction of a new middle school, and construction of a new high school. The preliminary cost for these three projects is $178 million.
- Addition to Matanzas High School: $17,500,000
- New Middle School: $68,000,000
- New High School: $92,500,000
If we are to build new schools or add to existing ones, school districts are limited as to how they can pay for this. There used to be eight separate funding sources for such projects, but since 2004, five of those sources are no longer available. These were used when we last saw such growth and accounted for almost half of the funding sources at the time. Additionally, unlike other local governments, school districts cannot set their own property tax rates. That is done by the state legislature. Other than taking out loans or bonds, our primary source of money to build a new school is through School Impact Fees.
School Impact Fees
School impact fees are one-time charges assessed on a new home to help pay for new or expanded public school facilities that will directly address the increased demand created by that development. This is money that cannot be collected if an existing home is sold or if it is commercial construction. The current fees were set in 2004. When a new single-family home is built, $3,600 is collected for School Impact Fees.
Flagler Schools currently has $23 million in Impact Fees, which we use to pay off the debt services on our newest construction projects, Rymfire Elementary, Belle Terre Elementary, and Matanzas High Schools.
State lawmakers recently enacted a new law preventing local governments, including school boards, from increasing impact fees by more than 50% during any four-year period. However, if the government can prove “extraordinary circumstances,” that 50% threshold can be excluded. Flagler Schools has not raised impact fees in 16 years.
The district commissioned an independent Impact Fee Study, which was completed in 2021. That study found the School Impact Fee should be increased to $7,175. Two school board meetings were convened in which the case for “extraordinary circumstances” was laid out and in which board members agreed that those circumstances existed.
In order for the increase to take effect, Flagler Schools needs the Flagler Board of County Commissioners to agree and sign off on the proposal. The county collects the fees and then passes them on to the school district.
If new impact fees are not adopted, the school district would need to look at other solutions to address student capacity challenges at our schools. Alternatives to new impact fees could include:
- Additional portable buildings
- Double sessions
- Disassembling computer labs and innovative learning spaces to make more classroom space
None of the alternative solutions are ideal. We know one factor that makes Flagler County so appealing is our schools and the quality of education our children are given.