St johns county v ne florida home builders
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St Johns County v NE Florida Home Builders 583 So.2d 635 (Fla. 1991) in 1987, St. Johns County, Florida, enacted a L and D evelopment R egulation requiring The payment of a public school impact fee $381 for a single family home $451 for a multi-family unit $381 for a mobile home.

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  • NE Florida Home Builders filed suit, alleging

    • The charge constituted constitutionally prohibited “tuition;”

    • That local governments were not authorized to deal with this issue since general law assigned responsibility to school boards;

    • That the legislature had preempted such actions by local governments; and

    • The “fee” did not meet the rational nexus test since homes without children were required to pay the “fee.”

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The Supreme Court Holding “fee” was:

  • Can a constitutionally addressed facility such as Schools be funded by developer exactions – impact fees?

    • Yes. The availability of adequate schools is an issue of public health, safety and welfare and thus within the purview of a local government.

    • St Johns County had entered into agreements with the School Board and was not usurping that authority.

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  • Would not impact fees for public schools be some type of “tuition” for public schools, that must, by law, be “free?”

    • No! Remember when the Dunedin court talked about those receiving the benefit?

    • Schools are not free! They cost money. But, the use of schools must be without charge.

    • Impact fees are charges, for which developers receive the “benefit” of adequate schools rather than “user charges,” and thus tuition.

    • Also, “[t]he use of impact fees has become an accepted method of paying for public improvements that must be constructed to serve new growth.

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The Nexus! “tuition” for public schools, that must, by law, be “free?”

  • St Johns County used a very simple method of calculation:

  • In St Johns County –

    • 17,198 Dwelling Units

    • 7,567 Kids In Public School

    • 0.44 School Children Per Unit

  • And, approximately one-half of St Johns County homes do not have a school child in residence!

  • Is 0.44 school kids per home a nexus?

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  • Yes, it is a nexus. “tuition” for public schools, that must, by law, be “free?”

  • The question is the impact on schools over the life of the structure rather than how many public school students might be in residence at any particular time – such as initial occupancy.

    • What if there will never be students in residence? See Volusia County v Aberdeen (760 So.2d 126, Fla.,2000). No kids, no fee.

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The Impact Numbers “tuition” for public schools, that must, by law, be “free?”

The Average

(0.44 over the life of the home)

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The Court had a problem with the ordinance. “tuition” for public schools, that must, by law, be “free?”

  • The School District is county-wide but St Johns County school impact fees were not collected in Saint Augustine.

  • Because St Augustine would benefit without paying, there was not the necessary substantial benefit.

  • “ . . .we hold that no impact fee may be collected under the ordinance until such time as substantially all of the population of St. Johns County is subject to the ordinance.”