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GROWTH SURGE: Hendry County Schools to start impact fees amidst student population boom

New fees target residential construction to fund much-needed school expansions and infrastructure
Posted at 6:16 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 18:16:45-05

LABELLE, Fla. — The Hendry County School District says the county’s student population is rapidly on the rise. So much so, schools like LaBelle High School are above capacity. Now, the district says they’re implementing new impact fees so their schools can support the new students.

Hendry County School District Superintendent, Michael Swindle, emphasized the necessity of these measures.

"The whole purpose of the impact fee is to accommodate the impacts of the new growth to our schools," he explained.

He says the district has observed a steady influx of students not only from neighboring counties, but also from out-of-state and overseas, ranking Hendry County second highest in Florida for student generation rate.

In a meeting on Jan. 16, the school board approved the implementation of these fees.

"Only if you move to the county and build a new home, will you have to pay that fee," Swindle clarified, indicating that the fees are targeted at new residential construction in the county.

He says this move comes as a response to the high growth rate coupled with limited funding options.

Swindle further explained that the revenue from these fees can only go to supporting the growth in schools in the areas they’re collected.

“This would include building a new school, adding a new wing, retrofitting a school for greater use, or adding new buses," he outlined.

Since LaBelle has seen some of the most growth in Hendry County, Swindle says they have a new high school planned. The current high school is built for 1,000 students and they have 1,400 right now.

Swindle says they’ve had to use portable classrooms to manage the overflow.

"We know that it's time to grow and we didn't want to do it through portables. Our students deserve a brick-and-mortar structure to learn from a beautiful, state-of-the-art learning facility in LaBelle," Swindle remarked.

The next step for the district is to finalize the percentage rate for the impact fees. It's a decision Swindle says he expects to be made in March.

Following this, a 90-day waiting period is required to conduct public hearings before the implementation of the fees.