BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Beaufort County homebuilders and buyers could see more money tacked on to their total price if a new set of fees is implemented.

The county council is debating the use of impact fees, which are monies from commercial and housing developers used to build libraries, fire services, roads and parks.

“The county levees a fee when you pull the building permit in order to offset cost of growth,” said Beaufort County public information officer Chris Ophardt.

Growth has been exponential in Beaufort County. A study showed 41,000 new full-time residents in the county in 2019 alone.

Those new residents use parks, schools and other amenities that the county believes could be paid for through impact fees.

“For example, the proposed EMS fee would bring in $4.1 million over the next 10 years,” said Ophardt. “Now, that will only build one EMS station, but it does give us the money to go to the state and say, ‘See, we are invested in this project,’ and then we can get state money to help augment our local money.”

Monday night, the Beaufort County Council moved the reading of the EMS, fire and parks and recreation impact fees to June 12 to allow for more negotiations with local municipalities.

Meanwhile, in a 9-2 vote, the council repealed the school impact fee, which will be refunded to those in unincorporated areas of the county.

The fees — which have been implemented in some form in every county in South Carolina — would be divided specifically wherever someone builds, either north or south of the Broad River. That way, the money paid by a homebuilder there will stay in their part of the county.

The builders themselves say the fees — which could be about $100 a month for the life of someone’s mortgage — may stifle the area’s growth and affect the tax base.

“We still need homes for our workers here,” said Meg James, executive officer Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association, in 2021. “I think $10,000 is going to price a lot of people out of building a home.”

Several local officials have said the county hasn’t given them information they need for a full discussion about the intergovernmental agreements, or IGAs, they need to pass in order to collect the fees for the county.

Those local municipalities are asking for more control over the money raised by the fees. But the county says all towns and cities come up with their own list of projects and are represented by their own leaders and citizens on the boards which make the decisions.

In addition, there are specific rules and regulations from the state about how the money can be used, which can’t be superseded.

The county says if the fees aren’t put in place, money for schools, parks and other county projects will have to come from somewhere else.

“It’s essentially a loan, so the county would have to loan in order to meet this new growth, in turn, that taxpayers would have to be repay back over 10, 20 30 years through their taxes.”

“We believe it’s either impact fees on people moving to the area and developers and commercial developers or its raising taxes,” said Ophardt. “And we would much rather meet growth and have people pay when they come to the area and not have the taxpayers who have lived here for years pay for that growth.”