To be clear, this post is not an argument for or against school impact fees. Rather, it serves as a simple reminder that facts that are relied upon and used in conducting public business should be both sourced and transparent so the public can determine their validity. As this post points out, Anderson One has created so many different — and even contradictory — “facts” that it can be difficult for anyone to really distinguish the true from the false anymore. In spite of the effort required to sort the true from the false, Anderson County Council and the planning commission owe it to the taxpayers to put forth that effort.
Update: The Anderson County Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing on Tuesday May 24, 2022 at 6:00 PM at the Anderson Civic Center located at 3027 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., Anderson, SC 29625 to consider the Impact Fee Resolution passed by the Anderson One Board of Trustees on all new residential developments.
Anderson One’s orchestrated disinformation campaign needs to be called out for what it is.
Currently, Anderson One is asking Anderson County Council and planning commissioners to approve a new $11,208 school impact fee that would be among the costliest in South Carolina. According to a July 1, 2020, report by The Journal, the Anderson School District One Board unanimously agreed to pay $33,520 to an out-of-state company named TischlerBise to prepare a Capital Improvement Plan and Development Impact Fee Study, both of which are required by South Carolina’s Development Impact Fee Act.
TischlerBise just recently prepared a school impact fee study for the imposition of fees in the Indian Land Area of Lancaster County just south of Charlotte. Their formula that led to the imposition of fees in Lancaster has now been cut and pasted in Anderson. For example, Anderson One’s study literally claims to have computed the “maximum allowable development impact fees for the Indian Land attendance area of the Anderson School District 1.”
Source: Screenshot of page 21 of Anderson County School District One’s TischlerBise study
In February of this year, several news outlets, including the Greenville News and Independent Mail, published an open letter by Anderson One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker who called it an unavoidable fact that Anderson One projects having to serve an additional 2,000 students in the next eight to ten years.
Screenshot Credit: Greenville News / Independent Mail. You can read the entire story here: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/2022/02/26/opinion-anderson-district-one-sees-impact-fee-way-fund-growth/6894695001/
“An additional 2,000 students in the next eight to ten years” certainly grabs your attention and “growth to pay for growth” has a nice ring to it but what Anderson One is not telling you is that the eye-popping numbers they have been touting on every local news channel and in every local newspaper contradict the conclusions of their own professional school impact study that has cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
981 new students over the course of ten years is not 2,000 students in the next eight to ten years.
According to Anderson One’s November 22, 2021, TischlerBise study, “By the 2031-2032 school year, Anderson School District 1 is projected to have a total enrollment of 11,615, an increase of 981 students.”
SOURCE: Screenshot of page 9 of Anderson County School District One’s TischlerBise study. An identical table can be found on page 4 of Anderson One/TischlerBise’s PowerPoint presentation to Anderson County Council at their Special Called Meeting on December 9, 2021.
In an attempt to quash any rumors that Anderson One’s TischlerBise study did not meet state law requirements or that its data was not legitimate, Anderson One created and distributed an informational pamphlet that it called “New Construction Impact Fee Myths VS Facts.”
SOURCE: Screenshot of Anderson County School District One pamphlet titled “New Construction Impact Fee Myths VS Facts.”
To trust TischlerBise’s study is to accept that Anderson One has been providing inflated enrollment projections and student generation rates. And — you would think that the release of the TischlerBise study and the presentation of its findings to Anderson County Council at their December 9, 2021, Special Called Meeting, would have slowed Anderson One’s firehose of falsehoods to a trickle. But — as you can see from the news stories below that postdate the TischlerBise study, you would be wrong. If anything, Anderson One’s output of disinformation has been amplified, presumably to obscure the TischlerBise study’s findings that debunk Anderson One’s inflated figures.
“Anderson School District One is growing by hundreds of students each year, and they’re projecting the population to grow even faster in the next couple of years.” December 10, 2021, WSPA News 7
“Were pretty good with projecting our numbers out into the future. And it looks like, right now, if current trends were to continue, it looks like in the next ten years we’ll see about two thousand more students. The problem is, we don’t have anywhere near room in order to accommodate those two thousand more students. The problem is, we don’t have anywhere near room in order to accommodate those two thousand new students.” Statement made by Robbie Binnicker to the Anderson County Planning Commission during their February 8, 2022 meeting.
“Binnicker said District One averages 100 to 300 new students each year. This past year, the number was 500.” December 15, 2021, The Journal
“Anderson One’s plan to help our current taxpayers is to let growth pay for growth…We project having to serve an additional 2,000 students in the next 8 to 10 years.” February 16, 2022, Anderson Observer
“Anderson One projects to have to serve an additional 2,000 students in the next eight to ten years due to the district being one of the fastest growing areas in the state”. February 17, 2022, Fox Carolina News
“District One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker says the district is expecting an additional 2,000 students over the next 10 years.” February 21, 2022, WYFF News 4 report
“We are facing two unavoidable facts…We project having to serve an additional 2,000 students in the next eight to 10 years.” February 26, 2022, The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail
Anderson One doesn’t even deny using propaganda. In fact, Anderson One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker recently stated, “We put out as much propaganda as we possibly can – so I’m glad its working.” This raises the question — is the local media blindly accepting things they know might not be true because it is easier to do so than to buck the status quo or investigate matters further?
Anderson One has been inflating student generation rates to an even greater degree than enrollment projections
The term “student generation rate” refers to the number of non-charter, public school students per housing unit within Anderson School District 1. According to the TischlerBise study, a new home in Anderson One can be expected to generate 0.432 new students on average.
SOURCE: Screenshot. The table above showing Anderson County School District One’s student generation rates can be found on page 8 of TischlerBise’s Anderson One study and also on page 3 of TischlerBise’s power point presentation to Anderson County Council.
Compare TischlerBise’s average student generation rate of 0.432 students per home to the various student generation rates that Anderson One has been touting for nearly two years.
During the June 9, 2020, planning commission meeting, Dr. Tiffany Estes, Director of Planning & Development for Anderson County School District One, indicated that each new home in Anderson One equated to about 2.5 new students each. Dr. Estes stated at the meeting, “And Mrs. Jones, she pointed out that, with the combination of new subdivisions that are already approved, it’s about 1,000, a little over 1,000 new homes. So that equates to about 2,500 new students.” On November 30, 2021, The Anderson Observer reported that Anderson One was using a figure equal to 1.5 children per household. Official planning commission meeting minutes released to the public on December 7, 2021, indicate that Dr. Estes, on behalf of Anderson One, told the commission during a recent subdivision hearing that the rate was 1.6.
The exaggerated facts and figures provided by Anderson One officials at planning commission hearings, and the resulting bias and influence, has become an open secret. Based on publicly available meeting minutes, since at least June 9, 2020, it appears as if every student generation rate provided by Anderson One to the planning commission during a subdivision hearing has been exaggerated by as much as 5.81 times, but not less than 3.47 times, what Anderson One’s TischlerBise study concluded — which is that each new home in Anderson County School District One can on average be expected to generate 0.43 new students.
The effectiveness of the disinformation can be measured by its ability to manipulate public opinion, and ultimately, public policy. And — it has undeniably had an affect on both.
Official meeting minutes show that planning commissioners and countless members of the public have been repeating Anderson One’s exaggerated figures. When providing testimony to the planning commission during meetings, Anderson One indicates that it holds no position for or against the agenda item up for discussion but then routinely provides incorrect information regarding the impact of the agenda item on the school district. And — despite Anderson One’s complete lack of commitment to consistent, or even believable “facts” and “figures,” the planning commission often relies upon testimony from school officials at meetings to support their decisions. So, it should come as no surprise that if you dig into court records filed as part of the many planning commission related lawsuits over the last two years, you will find them littered with testimony by Anderson One officials providing the planning commission with inaccurate and contradicting student generation rates.
To fully appreciate the extent of the problem, consider that during the October 12, 2021, planning commission meeting, an applicant was forced to counter disinformation from Anderson One by providing the planning commission with Anderson One’s own student generation rate. Per the official minutes, the applicant stated, “That’s about six times what it actually is. It’s actually about 0.43.”
Compartmentalizing the presentation of “facts”
By compartmentalizing their presentation of “facts,” Anderson One can accurately tell Anderson County Council that “a new home in Anderson One can be expected to generate 0.432 new students on average,” but at the same time tell the public and planning commission that 1.5 or as many as 2.5 students can be expected from each new home.
Again, by compartmentalizing their presentation of “facts,” Anderson One can accurately tell Anderson County Council that “they project 981 new students in the next ten years,” but at the same time tell the public and the media that the projected enrollment numbers are two to three times greater.
To that point, and in regard to Superintendent Binnicker’s open letter, while it is true that Anderson One has made their disinformation “unavoidable” through continuous repetition in the media, this does not make it “fact.”
The impact fee will limit the affordability of homes
Anderson One claims that the impact fee will not affect the affordability of housing in northern Anderson County/Powdersville and even makes this outrageous claim on their “New Construction Impact Fee Myths VS Facts” pamphlet.
SOURCE: Screenshot of Anderson County School District One pamphlet titled “New Construction Impact Fee Myths VS Facts.”
For starters, it should be obvious to anyone that adding $11,208 to the cost of a home will affect affordability and that those impacted the most by the cost increase will be the ones that are already close to being priced out (if not already) and cannot handle the additional cost burden that comes with an $11,208 fee. These individuals include Anderson One teachers and virtually all other Anderson One support staff that don’t get paid a salary similar to Anderson One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker.
Anderson One tries to support its affordability claims through an affordability analysis that it provides on page 23 of its TischlerBise study. The first thing anyone familiar with Powdersville will notice when looking at Anderson One’s study is the fact that the figures used to calculate affordability are laughable (see Figure 24 below).
SOURCE: Screenshot from page 28 of Anderson One’s TischlerBise study showing “Figure 24: Cost of Homeownership.”
Page 25 of Anderson One’s November 22, 2022, study states, “the median value of a home in the service area in 2019 was $164,300…the current home value is estimated to be $175,953.” By contrast, the data in the screenshot below was obtained from Realtor.com on May 2, 2022 and paints a far more realistic picture than the one provided by Anderson One.
SOURCE: Screenshot of Powdersville, SC market area overview taken from Realtor.com on May 2, 2022. Link: https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Powdersville_SC/overview
The current median home value of $175,953 provided by Anderson One in their study on November 22, 2022, is less than half of the $371,100 median sold price provided by Realtor.com on May 2, 2022.
Anderson One also argues that the $11,208 impact fee is insignificant because it would likely be bundled into a 30 year mortgage but ignores the fact that the total cost of the impact fee would actually be significantly higher as a result of it being financed over 30 years. More importantly, Anderson One’s affordability calculations were done assuming an interest rate of 3.25%. The charts below show the change in interest rates since November 2021 as well as historic trends.
The unavoidable truth
Anderson One’s affordability claims could barely be supported (if at all) using a bogus median home value of $175,953 and a near historic low interest rate of 3.25%. Currently, the median sold price in Powdersville is over twice this figure and interest rates are already at 5.00% and continue to climb.
Anderson One just spent $33,520 of taxpayer money on a school impact fee study that projects less than a thousand new students over 10 years and yet here we are being told by Anderson One it is an unavoidable fact that Anderson One projects having to serve an additional 2,000 students in the next eight to ten years.
Before Anderson County Council and planning commissioners approve one of the costliest impact fees in South Carolina, shouldn’t Anderson One at least get their story straight and account for the over 1,000 students that they may or may not be projecting to be enrolled in Anderson One in the next ten (or eight) years?