FORT MILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — When Pradip Chavan found out he could receive about $18,000 back of paid school impact fees, he had two questions.

“Oh wow… how and why?” he said. 

In 2018, new city homeowners were charged just over $18,000 for each new single-family home and just over $12,000 per unit for multi-family developments to pay for new schools. That amount came out to about $54 million.

But in 2021, York County officials filed a lawsuit, claiming the district was illegally trying to use the money to pay off bonds on newly-constructed schools.

One of the late adds to the session was the Fort Mill school district impact fees, marking the third time it came up in the last three weeks.

The fee issue has turned into a year-long legal battle. For the last few months, York County Home Builders Association president and local builder Michael Pruner has been wondering where that money went.

“I called all seven members of the council,” Pruner said. “I personally met with four of the council members in person. They told me the same thing “I can’t discuss it. It’s a pending legal matter.”  

The county and the district agreed outside of the courts to use the money to build three new schools over the next few years. 

Pruner says not so fast. 

“They collected it on bonded items, and they can’t spend it on that,” Pruner said.

There are more than 3,000 addresses of new Fort Mill homeowners who Pruner says deserve the money back.

“I don’t doubt that they have the ability to change what they spend money on. I just doubt they can go back in time and say, ‘Oh, we made this big mistake, and now we want to keep that money.'” 

South Carolina law states that “an impact fee must be refunded to the owner of record of property on which a development impact fee has been paid” if:

 (1) the impact fees have not been expended within three years of the date they were scheduled to be expended on a first-in, first-out basis; or

 (2) a building permit or permit for installation of a manufactured home is denied. 

It is not clear when officials spent the impact fee revenue. Now, Pruner wants the York County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the use of the funds.

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Others, like Chavan, say they want more transparency.

“But everyone should be made aware of how the money is being used, for what purpose. If (officials) really want to repurpose part of that money or all the money for something else, I think everyone should know. Use of money to me is very important,” Chavan said.