Voters will face bond referendum on Nov. 8 to fund schools
Voters in November will decide whether to allow Loudoun County to borrow at least $172.6 million to fund the construction and renovation of five schools and purchase fire-rescue equipment.
County supervisors on July 6 unanimously agreed to place the bond referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot, which will fund schools in Ashburn and Sterling.
If approved, $169.6 million of the money would go to finance the construction and equipping of the new Moorefield Station Elementary School (ES-16) for $22.83 million; the Ashburn Area Elementary School (ES-22) for $22.83 million; the new Ashburn Area Middle School (MS-6) for $39.38 million; the new Ashburn Area High School (HS-8) for $81 million; and $3.57 million worth of renovations for Park View High School.
Three million of the $172.6 million will pay for fire-rescue equipment.
Supervisors approved the $169.6 million for the schools over the $188.8 million requested by the Loudoun School Board.
Instead, the county will pay 10 percent cash for the schools’ construction, a policy on all capital needs projects, said Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), chairman of the county’s Finance and Government Services committee.
School board members had asked for full funding on all the schools, leaving the 10 percent cash free for other projects.
With Loudoun’s population exploding, especially in the east, elected county leaders have debated the merits of the new Ashburn areas schools for more than a year, but talks have been especially heated over HS-8.
The high school was on the fiscal 2013 list for capital needs projects until March when School Board members agreed to bump the project up a year.
Since then, battles in the public have brewed over where the school, which supervisors say is desperately needed to relieve overcrowding in the area, should be built.
Supervisors in May said they would pursue purchasing 58 acres in Lansdowne adjacent to Belmont Ridge Middle School and the National Conference Center to construct the high school.
However, those opposed to the site have said they prefer the Lexington Seven location off Route 7.
Since supervisors grouped all the schools into one bond referendum question, voters opposed to the high school’s location would have to vote against funding for all to see it fail.
If the referendum were to fail, supervisors could seek Virginia Public Schools Authority (VPSA) funding, which doesn’t need voter approval but does require a public hearing.
According to county documents, in this type of transaction, the county becomes part of a pool of other jurisdictions that sells its general bonds to VPSA. This option, however, could delay the schools’ construction.
Another option should the referendum fail is to wait two years have the question placed on the ballot again.
Still, supervisors are hoping it doesn’t come down to other options.
“I have faith in the public. They know how much these schools are needed,” Burton said.