Millions of dollars will help fund building new schools in Fort Mill

FORT MILL, S.C. — Millions of dollars in impact fees collected from new homeowners in Fort Mill will finally go toward building new schools.

The money had been tied up since 2021 in a legal battle between Fort Mill Schools and York County. The two parties were able to come to a new agreement and now, those impact fee dollars will help fund three new schools slated to open in just a few years.

Thomas Thorla is house hunting in Fort Mill. He said he’s happy to hear millions of dollars collected from others who’ve already bought new homes there will finally be put to use.

“It sounds like it was originally meant to go toward schools and development,” he said. “For it to finally end up doing that, I feel like, is important.”

In 2018, Fort Mill Schools and York County worked together, creating an impact fee on new houses in the district. They charged builders about $18,000 for each new single family home, and just over $12,000 per unit for multi-family developments -- all fees that were passed on to the home owner.

The money was set aside to pay for new schools. But in 2021, York County leaders filed a lawsuit, saying the district was trying to use the money to pay off bonds on schools that were already built. The county said that was against the law.

Local builder Michael Pruner agreed with the claims in the lawsuit and pushed to have the fees refunded.

“Those moneys should be refunded,” he said.

But York County leaders and the district have since been able to work out a new plan. The district will now use the fees toward two new elementary schools and one new middle school.

“To allow the funds that were collected to go where it was intended to go, which is to the construction of the schools,” said York Councilmember Christi Cox. “We are not approving a new impact fee, we are not approving an increase in the fee. We’re not extending the collection time of the fee, we’re not increasing amount of money collected.”

Thorla hopes the new plan will increase the value of his future home.

“It’s quite a lot, but when building a house increasing the land value around it, I think it’s an investment,” he said.

So far, the district has collected about $54 million in impact fees.

Two of the new schools are slated to open in 2025 so construction will have to start soon.

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