Better Planning Would Reduce 'Surprises'

Better Planning Would Reduce 'Surprises'

To avoid any more "surprises" from Loudoun County Public Schools, Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer) has a request he hopes the Board of Supervisors will approve at the next board meeting: that the school district put together a six-year master plan for proposed renovation projects.

The request means a one-year delay for several renovation projects already listed in the School Board's proposed Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2004-08. A few of the renovation projects were not included in the CIP the Board of Supervisors adopted last year.

"These are all big surprises," said Burton, chairman of the Finance and Government Services Committee. "I was looking for a smaller bond resolution this fall."

The renovations for four middle schools and Loudoun County High School in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 and for Rolling Ridge Elementary School in FY-05 might be delayed by one year, as recommended by the committee at the March 3 meeting. The Board of Supervisors will consider the recommendation, along with the committee's other votes regarding the school and county's combined CIP, at the next board meeting.

"I can understand the Board of Supervisors' concern. The way the CIP works, it is a long-range planning document," said School Board chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles). "It's different than the way we normally present projects to the Board of Supervisors."

THE SCHOOL BOARD requested $107.5 million for FY-04 CIP projects, $71.2 million more than approved by the Board of Supervisors last year, and $131.3 million for FY-05, $80.4 million more than the board approved.

"I expect the priorities to change from the CIP," Burton said.

The School Board's CIP for the next five years is proposed at $520.2 million, while the 2002 adopted version is $245.6 million and recommended this year by County Administrator Kirby Bowers at $376.8 million.

Supervisor Charles Harris (D-Broad Run) supports renovating older schools to be equitable with newer facilities, but he said he was "very disappointed how this came about."

Committee members Burton, Harris and Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) voted to recommend the board drop three undesignated schools from the CIP, priced at $128.4 million. The committee unanimously recommended dropping the Purcellville area high school, or HS-3, at $59.7 million, along with the land acquisition fees for the school.

"The picture has not changed significantly to warrant deviation" from the CIP, Burton said.

As with the school district, Burton recommended the Fire and Rescue Commission develop a master plan for $13.6 million in proposed fire and rescue station renovation projects and prioritize the projects, along with providing a cost estimate for the master planning process. The committee voted favorably for his recommendation and to delay construction of the Public Safety Administration Building by one year to FY-06.

"I wish we could get on with it. ... It's been long enough," Burton said.

Harris agreed. "The current administration building is substandard and needs to be replaced," he said.

THE COUNTY'S portion of the CIP is proposed at $163.2 million, 30.2 percent of a total of $540 million. The committee voted to recommend several additional delays and changes to the CIP, including:

* Funding the land purchase for the Center for Rural Innovation through a private and grant purchase instead of through the Land Acquisition Fund.

* Deferring the Government Office Space Plan from FY-06-08 to future fiscal years.

* Deferring the land purchase for the public safety firing range from FY-04 to FY-06.

* Placing funding for the Brambleton, Broadlands, Dulles, Lansdowne and western Loudoun public safety facilities in one bond in 2003 to allow the Department of Fire and Rescue Services and the Sheriff's Office to build the facilities as needed.

* Amending the Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse group home project schedule from developing one home per year to one home every two years.

* In lieu of renovations, constructing new facilities to replace the Arcola and Sterling Annex community centers and maintaining the Loudoun Valley Community Center renovation project as is, but delaying it by one year to FY-05. The Arcola Community Center would be replaced with a new facility on proffered land in South Riding, while the Sterling Annex would be replaced with an addition to the planned Claude Moore Recreation Center. Estimated to cost $5.5 million, the new facilities are less than the proposed renovation costs of $6.7 million. The renovation for Loudoun Valley is estimated to cost another $3.3 million. The three projects are proposed for the 2005 bond referendum.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the committee recommended the Board of Supervisors approve using $24,000 from the Transient Occupancy Tax funds to install entrance signs into Loudoun County, Lucketts, Paeonian Springs, Taylorstown and Lovettsville.

The committee also recommended the board keep fees for renting Parks, Recreation and Community Service facilities the same this year and task staff with studying a fee structure for short-term and long-term rentals.