A statewide alliance for school impact fees

Quick introduction here -- I just created my account, but I've been lurking for a while. While this is the first time I've posted to BlueNC, I'm "Michael Bacon" at TPMCafe and nclefty at Daily Kos. (I created that username years ago, shortly after 2004, when I felt like I needed to defiantly state that I was a liberal living in North Carolina. Man, how times have changed... for the better!)

I'm here now because I'm trying to actually move on something I've been wanting to do for quite a while now. I don't think impact fees are a foreign subject around here, from what I've seen, but right now the topic of how to pay for schools, in the wake of the Wake County bond referendum, seems to have some life.

Having watched up-close the court battle in Durham to charge impact fees without explicit legislative approval, I think the only way to get alternate sources of funding like this is if activists from the impacted municipalities team up and get on the same page. If only one city pushes it, they'll get snowed, just like Durham. If only the legislators push it, it'll die of a whisper campaign by the homebuilders. The only way it will happen is if the activists, who in each district can get the ear of their legislator, work together and move the ball forward. That's the only way we can match the extensive influence of the homebuilders. And I think BlueNC and other communities like it are just the way to do it.

I've got more on this in a longer post on my relatively new standalone blog. For now, I'd just like to put this out there as an idea and see if anyone comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


With you 100%

For all the high-flying rhetoric about the importance of local control of decision-making, municipalities in NC are really screwed when it comes to controlling their own destiny. And it's not just around schools.

I could totally get behind an initiative that would enable local governments to be able to do what they want in terms of fees without having to say "Mother May I" to the legislature.

Cities should have this authority. Period. That doesn't mean that have to use it, but they should have it.

So I'm in.

What's next? Has there been draft legislation proposed in the past that got shot down in committee?

A friend once told me that the best way to get a bill through the legislature is to write it yourself.

I'm happy to follow your lead. Just ask.


PS Welcome! It's great to hear from you. I love this idea.

I agree.

I would love to see Progressives have a debate on every single local government bill that comes before the Senate or House. For, like an hour each. There are hundreds of them. It would completely shut down the legislature, and would get a lot of attention. The argument for doing away with centralization is so obvious as to be laughable. Repubicans want to do away with the Dept. of Education because they like local control so much, so they'd have to vote for it, right? Or, we could make them look like complete hippocrits.

It would be a great way for Progressives to flex their muscles, do away with local bills at the legislature.

CountryCrats - my thoughts, my blog.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Thanks for the reply

I think the next step, for me, is going to be trying to gague the level of activist organization and support in various key counties across the state. Probably have another blog post about this sometime soon...

Oh, yes

Thanks for posting, MTB.

the topic of how to pay for schools ... seems to have some life

I'm in Johnston. We get fed b.s. and bonds and unnecessary debt burden about every other year by a bunch of sorry County Commissioners who don't have the spine (or smarts, i don't really know which it is) to tell those who profit off of our unfettered growth that they need to contribute proportionally to the building of our infrastructure to handle the growth. It's crazy down here.

I mean it's real nice that developers and brokers and contractors can come down here and make their millions and retire in a few short years, but they take no responsibility for the schools, water and other things the public has to provide for them so they can get rich.

I hear you and I'm with you. And Welcome to blueNC!

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

I ran on school impact fees in my meck co commissioner race

And by taking a strong stand on that issue, lil' old me with no political experience got within 100 or so votes of a 11-year town commissioner in the primary.

I talk about them a lot at movecmsforward.org, and Mary Newsom of the Observer, though more a fan of land transfer tax, brings them up on her naked city blog (http://marynewsom.blogspot.com/). An impact fee blogroll would be a good start.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks


What's the best way to do a blog roll? Is that something that BlueNC could host easily, or is it better to start something on Blogger or something like that?

I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure with the best way to implement it techincally.

Funding Options Menu

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners is headed in that direction. Most of the local funding options are available to only a handful of municipalities and for limited purposes. There is a growing sentiment that all municipalities should have access to a menu of funding options from which to select the most appropriate mechanism for dealing with their own particular needs and not be micro-managed, or mis-managed, by the General Assembly.

This is a problem of predominantly urban areas or those in the process of urbanization, especially in the center of the State between Gastonia and Smithfield. Historically the State legislature has not been very urban oriented and has been susceptible to lobbying by extremely well funded groups like homebuilders, and realtors who oppose impact fees and transfer tax increases. Homebuilders, at $800,000 in contributions, are the third most powerful lobby, behind trial lawyers, #2, and realtors, #1. Another mechanism that would more closely match development burdens with cost is an "impact tax".

The State and Local Fiscal Modernization Study Commission is an acknowledgement of the mismatch between needs and revenue streams. In Wake County an inordinate amount of the cost of growth has come from property taxes on existing properties leaving less money for provision of services to current taxpayers in existing neighborhoods. Those tax dollars are are further squeezed by Medicaid costs and the no-tax brigade.

WakeUP Wake County is a group raising awareness about good growth, the costs of growth, the need for growth to pay its own way. I am heading up the Regional & Town Planning Team. There is also a related WakeUP Wake County Yahoo Group. Read Stan Norwalk's recent post "The Blame Game"

A goal of WakeUP Wake County is to share with similar groups statewide and in the near future to form a coalition of groups supporting issues such as good growth and a menu of funding options for local governments. Sam, Michael or anyone else contact me if you want to get connected with WakeUP Wake County. The current website is undergoing a makeover but more information, connectivity and perhaps a blog are in the works. There is a good deal of info on the current WakeUP site and a lot at the NCACC site also.

Thanks, Greg.

This is very timely information. I'd like to keep up with what y'all are doing. Can anyone join the WakeUP Yahoo Group? As you can imagine, smart growth is an issue of interest to a number of people where I am and I'd like to be able to pass information and progress tidbits from your group to them.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Anyone and everyone

Anyone can join. WakeUP is non-partisan. The most prolific member/founder is Stan Norwalk who who wrote a recent Op-Ed in the News & Observer: Consider the Source of Funds. We co-hosted a County Commissioners candidate forum with the County PTA. There are a lot of cross-connections forming within the county and we expect them to form statewide. This thread is encouraging.

Just joined up

I'm now on the list, in an effort to start the coordination effort. For obvious reasons, a Wake-Durham alliance should be a good starting point for something broader.

The pro-impact fee contingent in Durham is currently asleep, I think, after all the mess about the court battle, but I feel 95% confident that the Commissioners would still support it, and we could get several big local organizations (PA, Durham CAN, Sierra Club, and of course the Indy) to get behind it and get Durham's legislative delegation on board. I'm going to spend some time this week calling some folks to make sure that folks are ready to roll if the time comes.


Lots of people here (me, for example) are ready to jump in and write letters, emails, etc., behind someone who will point us in the right direction toward effective action.

Sure hope your compass is working!


Thanks for all the links and info

In this part of the state, we're dealing with unprecedented growth due to the BRAC relocations, and the schools (as well as all of the other infrastructure) are already overextended and overcrowded, although I'd hesitate to put us in the category of becoming urbanized.

I have relatively little knowledge on this subject, and stand ready to be enthusiastically educated.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

Impact Letter

WakeUP has a letter in today's News & Observer written by Karen Rindge on the issue of impact fees.

Impact fees have wide citizen support as a fair way to help growth pay for itself. As recently as October, 71 percent of likely Wake voters polled stated clearly that they support impact fees on new home construction to pay for schools, planning, drinking water and landfills (poll by Public Policy Polling).