The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that the Granite School District is not exempt from paying a Salt Lake County flood control fee, a decision that will allow local governments to assess impact fees against school districts.

The high court's unanimous ruling means that the Granite School District must pay the county more than $108,000 in drainage fees assessed for three schools built after the ordinance creating the fees took effect in 1982.It also means that school districts statewide will be subject to impact fees imposed by local governments, just as the developers of private property are.

Granite officials had argued the drainage fee was actually a local assessment, not an impact fee. Under state law, school districts are exempted from paying local assessments as well as "general and special taxation."

The county claimed the drainage fee is an impact fee, defined in the opinion as "charges levied by local governments against new development in order to generate revenue for capital funding necessitated by the new development."

The state Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Richard Howe, stated that the justices agreed with Granite "that its exemption from payment of local assessments should not be denied it by the simple expedient of calling a local assessment by another name."

But, Howe wrote on behalf of the court, the Utah Legislature has indicated that districts can be required to pay impact fees in some cases, distinguishing them from local assessments.

"Because the Legislature has spoken, setting public policy in this area, it is unnecessary for us to declare any," the opinion states, concluding the flood control fee imposed by the county is an impact fee, not a local assessment.