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    Finding room: What might get sacrificed in Loudoun’s capital budget for two new schools

    From left: School Board members Thomas Reed (At Large), Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) at the March 2 fiscal 2016 budget work session with the county supervisors. Courtesy photo/Ken Reid
    It's down to this: What projects are the Loudoun supervisors and School Board members willing to delay in the Capital Improvement Program to accelerate a middle school and elementary school?

    County staff gave supervisors four scenarios for projects that could be pushed back to make room during a work session between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board March 2.

    The two school projects were pushed up by the School Board in its proposed CIP due to unanticipated student growth this year, which changed the projections for next year.

    But Loudoun's CIP for fiscal 2016 is already nearly hitting the county government's self-enforced $200 million budget debt ceiling, leaving little to no room for additional projects.

    Supervisors and School Board members perceived a greater need for the two schools than some projects currently in the CIP, so they agreed to take prioritize and share projects that could be pushed, their funding received in a later fiscal year.

    Supervisors debated whether the animal services facility, the planned Hanson Park, Crosstrail Boulevard segment B and the Ashburn Recreation and Community Center should be pushed back.

    The School Board chose the C.S. Monroe Technology Center conversion and renovation and the transportation fueling facility to be built at the LCPS administration building for county vehicles as projects that could be delayed.

    The four options presented by staff moved back one or more of these options, keeping some as priorities.

    The conservative scenario focused on keeping the current debt capacity at status quo, pushing C.S. Monroe's renovation and Hanson Park into fiscal 2019. This option takes out the Ashburn Recreation Center until a future year.

    The Hanson Park scenario fully funds the park project beginning in 2017, pushing C.S. Monroe and the Ashburn Recreation Center to 2020 and increasing the debt capacity by $1.74 million.

    The C.S. Monroe Scenario fully funds the conversion of the facility to offer up an alternative technology offering in conjunction with the Academies of Loudoun set to open in 2018 and freeing up space at Douglass Elementary School.

    Hanson Park and the Ashburn Recreation Center would get pushed to 2020, freeing up an extra $2.96 million.

    The Ashburn Recreation Facility would receive funding for fiscal 2017 in the fourth option, pushing C.S. Monroe's conversion to 2020 and pushing Hanson Park out for the undecided future. The scenario would give an extra $7.84 million-worth of wiggle room.

    The School Board was concerned that C.S. Monroe's conversion was pushed back in all but three scenarios. While they did offer it up as something that could be pushed back, they would prefer not. It's less of a priority than the Academies of Loudoun or the elementary school (ES 31) and middle school (MS 7) needed in the CIP.

    “This is not something obviously the School Board wanted to have to do moving forward, but it's something we need to do,” said School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger. “It's our situation, it's ours as a county. We have additional students coming in. It's something Loudoun is used to dealing with...”

    In each scenario, the animal shelter, transportation fueling facility and Crosstrail Boulevard were kept in the current proposed CIP.

    No decision was made on which option should be chosen, and supervisors were divided on the priority projects.

    Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) saw the Ashburn Recreation Facility as a priority, as it's a project that has been continually pushed back and is a priority for the Ashburn community.

    “I also think at the same time...Hanson Park, if we push it to a future fiscal year, we believe there's proffer money to keep moving that project forward,” he said. “The Ashburn Recreation Center is not in my district...There is no such facility in the Ashburn sub-planning area.”

    Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) believed the Ashburn Rec Center was lower on the priority list than most other options, which was echoed by other supervisors.

    “In the long run, that is not nearly as important as the fact that we are so behind on fields,” York said. “And I hope at the end of the day, regardless of where we are we, will keep Hansen Park where it is ... To leave it out there in the open is not going to serve the community overall.”

    The scenarios will be further discussed at the next work session on March 5 and the March 10 Board of Supervisors Finance and Government Services and Operations Committee meeting.

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