Two Bond Questions

Two Bond Questions

Two elementary schools, two public safety centers proposed.

Each election, the public schools has a referendum question on the ballot to fund the building of additional schools just months after a number of new schools open. This year’s question is for two elementary schools, one in the Belmont area and the second in the Leesburg area, to open in fall 2005.

“That’s all we needed. We’re a little ahead of the curve as far as numbers,” said Wayde Byard, schools press officer.

The public schools’ referendum question asks voters to approve bonding of $27.39 million to fund the design, construction and equipment of the Belmont area elementary school, or ES-6, at a cost of $13.325 million, and the Leesburg area elementary school, or ES-13, at a cost of $14.065 million. The Belmont area school is proposed for a proffered site in Belmont Country Club just west of the intersection of Claiborne and Gloucester parkways, while the site for the Leesburg area school is still under negotiation. Both the Belmont and Leesburg area schools will be designed for 800 students.

“It’s the projected enrollments we’re looking at. We are anticipating [the need] for the schools because of the anticipated growth,” said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services.

STUDENT ENROLLMENT at the public schools increases an average of 8 to 10 percent each year, a number that planning staff can estimate within 1 percent of the actual rate before the next school year starts. This year’s enrollment, estimated at 40,250 students, is expected to increase to nearly 47,000 students by fall 2005. To help accommodate this increase, the Board of Supervisors adopted the two school capital projects in the 2004 fiscal year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The referendum question asks voters to decide on the method of funding these schools. If the voters do not approve the method, the Board of Supervisors will have to find another funding source.

“These are the maximum [amounts]. A lot of times we come in under the amount we ask for,” Byard said.

The average cost to the homeowner for the capital projects bonds sold on a 20-year repayment schedule and with a 5 percent annual interest rate is $7 for property assessed at $100,000 and $25 for property assessed at $350,000, according to the county Government Financial Services Office.

“It’s another day in the news when Loudoun County opens schools,” said Joseph Vogric (Dulles), chairman of the School Board, at the dedication ceremony Thursday for Belmont Ridge Middle School, which opened this fall in the Lansdowne area. “It’s a question of how many and where.”

Another three schools are scheduled to open in fall 2004, including Belmont Station Elementary School in Ashburn, Mercer Middle School in Aldie and Smarts Mill Middle School in Leesburg. The district currently has 61 schools, five of which opened this year and another five last year.

A SECOND BALLOT question asks voters to approve the county’s issuing general obligation bonds to fund $14.525 million to design, construct and equip two combined fire and sheriff substations, one in the Brambleton area at a cost of $8.63 million and the second in the Lansdowne area at a cost of $5.895 million.

The Brambleton station, or public safety center, is proposed as a 24,000-square-foot building that will be built on a 5-acre parcel proffered in the southern area of the Brambleton development near Belmont Ridge Road, or Route 659. The station in Lansdowne is smaller at 12,000 square feet and is proposed for a proffered three-acre site in the Lansdowne development.

“We see … large-scale residential and commercial centers, like Brambleton and Lansdowne, developing,” said Howard Dawley, deputy chief of planning and administration for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services. “The trucks have to be close to the [centers] for proper protection to be provided to the county.”

Loudoun currently has 20 substations and a temporary station in South Riding that will be built as a permanent station in 2005. The substations take 24 to 28 months to complete.

Staffing and trucks, including a pumper truck and an ambulance, for the substations will be provided with the help of the Ashburn and Arcola volunteer companies. The volunteers will staff the stations from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with county staff on duty during the remaining hours.