Supervisors Approve School Construction Plan

Supervisors Approve School Construction Plan

The Board of Supervisors held what it thought would be the final scheduled budget work session Monday, March 29, but was unable to complete all of its budget decisions. The final session focused on the Capital Improvement Plan, which looks at projects to be constructed over the next six years.

While the supervisors were able to agree on school capital projects, they were split on whether they should include road projects in the CIP. In an unofficial vote, supervisors voted 4-3, with both Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) and Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles) absent, to support some type of road program. Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large), Supervisors Sally R. Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) voted against paying for roads locally.

Supervisors who opposed a possible road program had concerns that the projects would take away from public safety and school projects and that the projects would go forward without a referendum.

"I would certainly hate to spend this design money without asking the voters if they want to go down that road," York said. "I would prefer for us to put a package out on the table that actually is a full six-year plan and see what the voters want to do."

Kurtz expressed concern that roads are supposed to be funded by the state and should not be the burden of local tax payers.

"It seems to me that whatever debt we are taking on is our reliable source of funding, which is generally the property tax," she said. "I am pretty much unwilling to locally fund these road construction projects because generally these are state responsibilities."

The state's responsibility for roads was one of the main reasons that supporters of the road program wanted to include it in the county's debt capacity. Supervisors expressed frustration with how the state deals with building and improving roads in the county and were anxious to take the project on themselves.

"There is an endless need for traffic improvements," Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said. "While I don't like spending money, this is something that has been articulated to us by Prince William and Fairfax counties, on the record and you have to plan things and you have to do them."

Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) suggested taking one project that was ready to begin and fund that to prove to the public that the county could get the roads done on its own.

"The best way we can move forward is to pick the project that is ready to be built, take the money and build it and show a success story," he said. "Take a proffer that is needed in this county, fund it, build it and show people we can do this before we jump into the full regime."

In the end the supervisors in attendance voted 5-2 to do just that, approving the inclusion of the Loudoun County Parkway/Route 7 interchange and Battlefield Parkway projects in the fiscal year 2007 plan. The two projects would be funded over the next two years. No additional road funding was included for fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2012.

BOTH SUPERVISOR Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) presented amended Capital Improvement Plans for the school system, with Tulloch's delaying some school construction and Waters' also delaying land acquisition and cutting the cost of many projects.

"This CIP goes to FY '12, but at what point do we give 100 percent to debt cap to one high school because that's what it ends up being?" Waters said, referring to her cost cuts. "What is the price of a high school in 2020? I think we have to ask the question, what can we do different [to lower the costs of projects]?"

The board voted to approve Tulloch's elementary school plan, which included the construction of one school in South Riding Station during fiscal year 2007. The supervisor's plan pushed an Ashburn area school to fiscal year 2008 and moved one Dulles area school from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2011 and another out of the current plan into future years. Both the expansion of Waterford Elementary and the renovation of Catoctin Elementary were pushed back until fiscal year 2011.

The final approved plan for the county's middle and high schools was a hybrid of both supervisors' plans. The main concern with Waters' plan was pushing back the land acquisition.

"It is important when looking at land to keep in mind that it's something they are not making more of," Sam Adamo, director of planning for Loudoun County Public Schools, said. "It is important to acquire land while we have the opportunities."

The board agreed with Adamo and voted to keep the land acquisitions as they were originally scheduled. While the board voted to approve Waters' plan's lowered project costs, which reduced two middle school projects by a total of $6 million and three high school projects almost $5 million, School Board Chairman Robert F. DuPree Jr. (Dulles) expressed concern over the lowered price tags.

"If a figure for a school is too low, we will have to come back for more appropriations," he said. "We spent nearly a year looking at how we build schools. We increased capacity. I don't think people in this county are going to want 2,500-student schools like they have in Fairfax. We will return what [money] we don't need, but we won't know until then."

In addition to lowering the cost of school projects, the approved plan included moving a middle school and a high school in the Dulles area to fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2010, respectively, and a high school in the Ashburn area to fiscal year 2011. Both the Advanced Technology Academy and the renovations of C.S. Monroe Technology Center were removed from the plan all together.

DuPree was satisfied with the plan, provided he could revisit projects scheduled for future years.

IN ITS FINAL actions of the evening, the board voted unanimously to delay the land acquisition for the proposed Ashburn mental-health group home and one mental-health supported-living residence, which would house four clients and one staff member in a residential unit. Both projects' land was scheduled for acquisition in fiscal year 2007.

In addition, the board voted 5-2-2 to defer an adolescent day-treatment facility and mental health/substance abuse adolescent center until fiscal years 2009 and 2010. One Loudoun Center and University Center were being evaluated as possible sites for both projects.

Waters, district supervisor for the proposed sites, questioned the idea of putting any residential property on sites zoned for commercial use.

The board directed staff members to confer with the district's supervisor before proposing uses for proffered sites, with the exception of schools. Staff members told the board that the proposed sites were only recommendations.

Supervisor Jim Clem would be away on business through Tuesday, so the board added a meeting Wednesday, April 5, at 6:30 p.m., to vote on the budget. Originally it was to vote at its business meeting Tuesday, April 4.