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Supervisors' Committee Questions CIP

More than $540 million in capital projects will be considered for the next five years, as presented Monday at the Finance and Government Services Committee.

The proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for Fiscal Years (FY) 2004-08 includes several school and county construction and renovation projects. The school system's portion of the CIP, which is proposed at $376.8 million, provides for nine school renovation projects and 11 new school buildings, including eight elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools. The county's portion of the CIP is $163.2 million, or 30.2 percent, and the schools' is 69.8 percent.

"I have a significant problem with the schools' portion of the CIP," said Charles Harris (D-Broad Run).

James Burton (I-Mercer), committee chairman, agreed. "There are things in there that are questionable," he said. "They put in $71 million worth of new projects in FY-04 we never heard of before. ... If we fund it, that's another 2 cents on the [property] tax."

The CIP proposes 17 school projects with eight slated in FY-04, along with another 35 county projects with 11 of the projects the same year. The projects proposed for the November 2003 referendum include:

* Construction of two elementary schools to serve the Belmont and Leesburg areas at a cost of $27.3 million, an amount that is included in County Administrator Kirby Bowers' proposed $1.105 tax rate.

* Renovations to four middle schools and to Loudoun County High School, ball field lighting at the high schools and updates to the HVAC system at Hillsboro Elementary School, a cost of $50.5 million included in the maximum $1.16 tax rate, the rate advertised to the public.

* Arcola, Loudoun Valley and Sterling Annex community center renovations, a cost of $10.1 million included in the proposed tax rate.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the committee:

* Forwarded the finished Fire and Rescue System Service Plan to the Fire-Rescue Commission for review and comment. The commission acts in an advisory role to the county's combined career and volunteer fire and rescue system. In October 2000, the supervisors hired EMSSTAR Group to develop a 20-year plan for fire and rescue services. The plan outlines the resources the system will need during the next five years and sets criteria for staffing new and existing stations.

The commission has until the end of the month to review and comment on the CIP portion of the plan. Burton said the commission and the county do not have to accept everything in the plan.