By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Growing at over 7% a year, Greene County’s is in the top 10 Virginia localities for population growth. More people translate into more children going to school. Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh and the School Board have been working with the Charlottesville architectural firm of VMDO to develop a prioritized plan to expand the Greene County schools to meet the demand – including a new elementary school. Prior to the Supervisors meeting of Tuesday, October 25th the supervisors held a joint work session with the School Board.
VMDO’s Robert Moje and Bruce Powell have helped the school system refine the facilities study and have prioritized the projects into Short Term, Mid Term and Long Term groups with the Short term/High Priority projects ranging from $16.7-$19.0 million comprised of…
H1A High School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center
S1 Monroe Drive Reconfiguration
S2 William Monroe High School and Nathanial Greene Elem. Parking
S4 Ruckersville Elem. Parking / Circular
M1A Middle School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center
In addition, Whitmarsh pointed out that there would also be some additional staffing required.
Supervisor Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked VMDO if there were cost efficiencies to do the high school and middle school projects at the same time since they both need some of the same projects. Moje said that yes there are potential savings but the amount of funds available will decide if similar projects can be combined and the savings realized.
Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) brought up the issue of the reduction of debt payments that grow each year as a source of funding for some of the projects. In FY 2017 there is a reduction of $230M, in FY 2018 the reduction increases to $333M, FY 2019 = $515M and by FY 2020 = $827M which is a cumulative total of $1,905M in four years. After 10 years the cumulative reduction in debt service is $7,273M and it grows to over $18 million by the FY 2033.
The discussion shifted to the timing of when the Short Term projects could be completed which Moje indicated it would take 9 months to design and approve and about 18 months to build which would be by September, 2019.
The question of timing relative to the next budget cycle was brought up by Whitmarsh and she explained that it is critical that the Short Term projects be included in the next budget cycle in order to keep the project moving forward. Board of Supervisors Chair, Bill Martin, had concern about needing to know how much additional cost the project would add to the taxpayers of Greene County. Moje suggested that Short Term projects design phase be started and the actual construction could be decided in early 2018.
Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) requested a complete detail of all of the debt service by year by project which was agreed to be provided to him this week. Frydl clarified that the School Board doesn’t need the approval of the Supervisors to spend up to their approved budget. Cox complimented the School Board in presenting the project to the Supervisors which is a change on how these types of projects have gone forward in the past. Martin reconfirmed that he needs to be able to understand the impact of taxpayers to their tax rate in combination with the cost of other projects, primarily the water impoundment. Frydl suggested that the School Board go forward with the project similar to the manner the Board of Supervisors is progressing with the water and sewer project.
The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the School Board and Whitmarsh for being being proactive with the Board of Supervisors regarding their projected capital needs. We also recognize the Board of Supervisors must balance the capital needs of the entire county. While schools are the largest portion of any localities operating budget, the Board of Supervisors must accumulate all reductions in Debt Service as a source of funding of all projects needed in the county. This public list of “needs” is accumulated in the Capital Improvement Plan which is a county wide list and prioritization of capital projects year by year so that the Board of Supervisors can prioritize all of the needs of the county vs. debt service reductions vs. tax increases.
In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum believes it is important that all calculations include the annual contribution of unspent operating expense being rolled into the capital projects fund (projected to be $1.3 million for the schools by the end of this school year).
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org