Frustrated that renovations to aging schools are being delayed because of capacity enhancements needed to address student growth, School Board members vowed Monday to again request additional facilities construction funding from the Board of Supervisors.
“We continue to hear from the [Fairfax County Public Schools Facilities Planning Advisory Council] and the citizens about the horrendous state of the construction and renovations of our schools and we are at a complete impasse over this,” School Board member Ted Velkoff (At-large) said. “Last year we tried asking the Board of Supervisors for more funding in the form of the bond... I see no way we’re going to solve this problem without more revenue.”
“I can’t raise taxes,” he added. “I would if I could, but I don’t have that authority… I think for us to face this issue and no longer be able to do anything about it is just no longer responsible. We have to do something.”
Velkoff was among those School Board members agreeing to request additional funding from the Board of Supervisors during its meeting next week. Among the possible revenue sources mentioned by School Board members was a meals tax and possibly charging neighboring counties to pay for renovations to the regional governor’s school Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which is run by Fairfax County Public Schools. TJ construction will be bidding this spring.
In Virginia, county boards and city councils have taxation authority and the ability to issue voter approved general obligation bonds.
Last year, School Board members requested additional bond funding from the Board of Supervisors, which denied the request saying it would divert much needed money from county construction projects, such as those renovating police stations.
School system staff said with an additional $25 million a year the renovation queue could be kept on schedule.
Under the proposed Capital Improvement Program funding for fiscal 2014-18, “new capacity additions begin to delay renovations,” said Kevin Sneed, director of the school system’s Design and Construction Services office. A vote on the proposed CIP is scheduled for Jan. 24.
“What that would allow us to do is to maintain roughly what we thought the timing of the renovation projects were a year ago and build these additional capacity enhancement projects,” which include a new high school in the west and four new elementary schools, said Sneed. “If $25 million is all we can get, that’d be great… We’ve grown by 25,000 [students] and we still have the same cash flow.”
Delays to renovation projects caused by capacity improvements varied depending on schools’ ranks in the renovation queue. Schools appearing early in the queue could see construction delays of six months to a year, while other schools that appear late in the queue could be delayed 18 months to two years, Sneed said.
Fairfax County Public Schools has a stated goal of renovating schools within 25 years of its last construction update.
“I pulled out the elementary school that my kids went to because I know it opened in 1990, and you’re looking at 36 years until we renovate that school without the $25 million,” School Board member Kathy Smith (Sully District) said. “Maybe that’s the way we change the discussion. We have to show those real world examples… The community expects us to do a better job with the Board of Supervisors to address our facility needs.”
Information on student growth and the proposed Capital Improvement Program can be found at www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/cip.shtml.