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Geurin Puts Life Into "Dead on Arrival" CIP

School Board explains increase in capital improvements request.

Three words got to Loudoun County School Board member Warren Geurin (Sterling).

"Dead on arrival" was how Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer) described the School Board's proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) at the Jan. 21 finance and government services committee meeting. Burton said he would not support a plan that more than doubles what the Board of Supervisors adopted last year for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2004-08 CIP.

"They are going to have to do a lot of justifying, a lot of explaining," said Burton, who called for a joint meeting Feb. 18 of the county and school district's finance committees. At that meeting, Burton wants to see the school district's attendance numbers and projections for the projects added to the CIP list.

The School Board's CIP increased from $245.6 million, as adopted last year, to the $520.2 million request. An increase of $151.6 million for FY '04 and FY '05 covers the costs of seven additional renovation projects — two elementary schools, four middle schools and one high school — and the construction of a new high school in the Purcellville area, along with ball field lighting upgrades at four high schools and improvements to the HVAC system and windows at Hillsboro Elementary School.

"I don't think it's dead on arrival and I don't think all of the Board of Supervisors think it's dead on arrival," Geurin said. "I am sure that the members of the Board of Supervisors will keep an open mind about our budget requests not only for building renovations, but also for the operating budget."

GEURIN CONSIDERS upgrading and renovating a total of 10 schools in the next two years a "conservative" measure, as he stated at the Jan. 28 School Board meeting. The renovations follow a "lengthy and complete needs assessment" of the schools, he said. The schools include two high schools, Broad Run and Loudoun County; four middle schools, Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, Simpson and Sterling; and three elementary schools, Hamilton, Rolling Ridge and Sugarland, along with the upgrades at Hillsboro Elementary School. The renovations for Broad Run High School and Hamilton Elementary School were approved in last year's CIP.

The School Board uses a limited calendar, placing the entire list of projects in the first year of the CIP and new school projects in the out years excluding any renovation projects, said Thomas Reed (At large). "One of the things we may want to discuss with the [Board of Supervisors] is the calendar we now use," he said. "If the Board of Supervisors wants the true picture, then we would certainly put on our CIP the projects for the needs for renovations for the next seven years."

Reed said he supports the CIP as written and that the entire list of projects is needed.

"The question arose, 'Why all of a sudden?'" Geurin said. "This happens to be a year where renovations outnumber new buildings and it's about time."

"All of a sudden there are these renovation projects we have not heard one word about," said Supervisor William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). "My first thought was, I was taken aback because a lot of those projects seemed to come out of nowhere."

Bogard questioned whether the projects were overlooked or if they were not considered previously, adding that in either case, he was "disappointed."

"An explanation should go along with why we didn't know about this before," he said. "Now is not the time to be coming in with an unplanned expenditure because of what our revenue forecast is. I'm not saying it doesn't need to be done. ... I'm not predisposed one way or the other."

Geurin told members of the Board of Supervisors that the School Board will answer the questions the board brings forth.

"I am optimistic Mr. Burton is willing to learn more about the projects that are in our CIP and perhaps his comments about it being 'dead on arrival' are premature," said School Board chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles). "The taxpayers see us open 10 schools in two years and are saying, 'What about us? What about our old schools?' ... The taxpayers too believe they should have their facilities renovated."

Burton said funding the School Board's request will add another 2 cents to the property tax, which is $1.05 for every $100 of assessed value. "I'm looking forward to hearing their justification," he said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board:

* Authorized to bid out construction of the new administration building, which the Board of Supervisors agreed to fund for $26.1 million through the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA). The School Board approved the site schematic in May 2002.

"This is something a long time coming," Vogric said. "As we grew and grew, we pushed people closer together. … We don’t have enough space and the space what we have is scattered throughout the county."

The administration offices are housed at the main North Street Building — a 75-year-old renovated school — along with the Douglass Support Center, the Staff Training Center and the media center. The new facility Hayes Large Architects designed will span 150,000 square feet at a 13.4-acre site in the Broadlands subdivision.

The school district will advertise the bids later this month with them due back by April 2 and the final bid awarded April 22. Construction is expected to begin in early May.

* Approved the committees to suggest names for a high school, (HS-2), in South Riding and for a high school, (HS-4), in Brambleton, both scheduled to open in fall 2005.

"All the groups and committees are anxious to have a name for the schools rather than a number," said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services.

The bids for the two schools were issued Nov. 26. The final bid has not been announced.

* Heard a report on the attendance boundary calendar for Mercer Middle School, HS-2 and HS-4. At the request of Dulles South residents, the School Board added a community input meeting on Feb. 5 and a boundary hearing on March 10 to the two sets of meetings already scheduled.