The School Board is considering a proposal to budget $203,630,000 for construction of three new elementary schools, one middle school and one high school plus renovations of three other elementary schools.
Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick presented new recommendations for the $832,610,000, five-year Capital Improvements Program budget at last week’s board meeting. The School Board revises the CIP annually based on changing enrollment, location of houses being built, land availability, and other factors.
The board will decide whether to fund the FY06 portion of the CIP proposal at a cost of $203,630,000. It plans for construction of the Harmony Elementary school in Hamilton, the Arcola Elementary Schools in Aldie and a third unnamed elementary school at Loudoun Valley Estates II to open in the school year 2007-2008. Renovations to Rolling Ridge and Sugarland elementary schools in Sterling would be completed that same year. The Ashburn Hillsboro Elementary School’s renovations would be finished this year. A middle school in the Dulles area and a high school in western Loudoun would open a year later than the elementary schools.
The School Board members voted this fall to demolish and rebuild a bigger school in Arcola’s place.
CURRENTLY, five elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools have been funded and are in a stage of construction. Renovations for Loudoun County High school, four middle schools and a school administration building also have been funded. The school district has built 23 new schools in the past five years.
The Board of Supervisors last year limited capital project spending to $100 million, but then relented and allowed a higher spending cap. The supervisors have the final say on the amount of the CIP and the operating school budget, but not on how the money is spent.
The CIP budget proposal reflects the current policy of building a high school with a capacity of 1,600 students, a middle school with a capacity of 1,184, and an elementary school of 875.
If the School Board decides to increase those capacities, which is under consideration, the costs will be higher, said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services. The figures reflect an annual 6 percent inflation rate.
The Harmony Elementary School in Hamilton and the elementary school at Loudoun Valley Estates II would cost $19,930,00 each to be built. The demolition and construction of the Arcola building would cost $21,450,000.
“We don’t pick these out of the air,” Hatrick said. There is a direct correlation between projected enrollment and the need to build.
THE NUMBER of students in the county’s public schools this year is 44,014. That number is expected to climb to 63,247 in the fall of 2009, Adamo said. Residential building permits have risen from 2,737 in 1988 to 4,355 this year. Loudoun’s population is 230,000 to 240,000, he said. While birth rates are declining in the state, they are rising in the county.
Evan Mohler, assistant superintendent of support services, said construction costs are skyrocketing. “What we are seeing is somewhere between a 20 and 23 percent increase,” he said.
School Board member Bob Ohneiser recommended a $50,000 per family proffer or impact fee for any development that exceeds zoning policies. For example, if zoning allows 100 homes, but the developer wants to build 200, then he pays $50,000 times the additional 100 or $5 million. Ohneiser said this funding proposal would be for family homes only. Adult communities such as Leisure World in Lansdowne and Falcons Landing in Sterling would not adhere to these guidelines, he said.
Ohneiser said he selected $50,000 because the average house costs $460,000. If he multiplies the tax rate of $1.10, he gets $7,000. With a student’s enrollment at county schools averaging eight years, he multiplied eight times $7,000, which equaled $56,000. He rounded it off to $50,000. He said this formula takes into consideration it takes $10,600 to educate a student in a year.