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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.


Make sure you study your respective SB candidates first, as some of these folks need to go in order for some “new blood” to infuse their ideas (and greatly help and support the teachers) into this system. VOTE!

I think folks are misunderstanding what West Ender is wanting here.

Basically, he is proposing that instead of spending $100 million or whatever a year on paying off old bonds and paying interest on the existing $1 billion of existing school bonds, we take that $100 million and put down cash money to pay for schools.

The idea behind floating bonds is that we borrow $100 million now—then pay 5% interest on it for the next 10 or 20 years ($5 million a year)—then we pay the full $100 million 10 or 20 years down the line, when in theory $100 million will have less of an impact than it does now.

OTOH, I would argue that building trailers would mean the money LCPS is now spending on interest would now be spent on trailers. If that money went to trailers that could be easily moved from school to school and had a lifespan of 20 years, that might make it more worthwhile, as trailers are tangible goods that contribute some value to LCPS, whereas interest is something that helps some bond trader or investor somewhere.

Of course to make his idea viable, we might have to have a one-time levy of 3-5 cents on the real estate tax to raise seed money of $200-$400 million for the LCPS Capital Construction Fund.

You put in restrictions on how much could be spent on different projects in a year, order the existing schools that need renovation money from the fund (and have staff reorder the list every year), then put in rules about when voter approval would be needed (I’d imagine for any expenditure of more than say $5 million.)

Similar funds could be set up for transportation, parks, libraries, revenue stabilization (rainy day), etc., making Loudoun debt-free in 20 years.

It’s an interesting solution, one that doesn’t rely on the tired right-wing rhetoric of “cut teacher salaries,” “cut (unnamed) bureaucrats in the central office,” “hassle employees over every $20 they spend,” “vouchers solve all the problems,” etc.

OTOH, I suspect there’s gotta be a reason why more localities have not yet done this.

Cut that $845 down to say $600 by slashing the same number of seats down to $120M range and I’ll gladly pay a one year increase. 

Its not about the money, its spending our money we do pay wisely and efficiently.

as oppposed to what? YOu want the Board to raise the tax rate enough to generate $22 million in one year so they can pay cash money for one new elementary school?

From past articles about the 2012 budget, 1 cent of the tax rate equated to $8 million. So you are talking about 3 cents for one elementary school. 
One cent on a $400,000 appraised value home = $40. So $.03 = $120 in taxes paid.  You want to pay that this year? Take the $169 million for all these schools - that would add $0.21 cents to the tax rate, which would equate to $845 extra in taxes on the example house. Sound good to you “no to bonds” folks?

I’m sure all the future folks who move here and help to populate that school will REALLY appreciate that YOU were taxed to fund it, and they get off scot free.

Do you understand there is no equality in paying for the school system in the above example? Yes, it saves the County money in the long run, but it costs you - Current Taxpayer - 100% of the cost of that capital project in the short term.

Are you still ok with not floating bonds?

The $172 Million dollars will cost Loudoun taxpapers approximately $258 Million. $86 Million in interest payments. $4.3 Million a year. That’s alot of white boards!

$86 Million in interest, wait, that’s 3.3 Elementary schools worth of interest.  Still sound like good deal?

For the LCPS-at-any-cost crowd, how do you propose to pay for everything LCPS wants?  What property tax rate is the limit at which you wouldn’t be willing to go higher?  Currently, it is $1.30 and has skyrocketed from 0.97 just a few years ago.  Are you willing to pay $1.60?  $1.80?

Yes….let’s not build HS-8. We can send split up the Lansdowne kids and bus them to 4 or 5 different schools after we build all the additions to the High Schools around the county.

I love living hear and love it when people come to visit and say how nice it is.  I vote Yes for anything related to Schools, Roads, etc.  This country needs quality education.  “Get a Grip” got it right.  If you have this much time to write in this forum, you need a different and more constructive hobby. 

I bet the people complaining the most don’t even send their kids to the fine schools we have in this county.

Additions are cheaper and the proof can be found in the CIP where a 200 seat addition is planned for Freedom HS for only $4.3 million.  8 such additions equals a 1,600 seat HS, but at a cost of only $35 million.

Compare that to the $90 million it will cost to build HS-8 and probably another $20 million to purchase the land, which is now zoned commercial and will be removed the tax base forever.  HS-8 built at the NCC site will also require 12-acres of land now used as a park.

It seems to me the most sensible option is to expand all the 1,600 seat high schools in the area by 200-400 seats and build HS-6 as a 2,000 seat HS.  That would provide 1,600 seats and save taxpayers around $75 million.

Explain how bonds are the CHEAPEST way to build when one must PAY INTEREST PLUS PRINCIPAL on the bonds to build.

Building with money that’s already in savings is the CHEAPEST way to build anything because it doesn’t require interest payments.

Of course, those who selfishly support fiscal irresponsibility and enjoy giving the school board blank checks at public expense shouldn’t be expected to understand basic financial principles.

The homework wasn’t done on this bond. The public doesn’t know enough to say for sure whether it’s a good or bad decision. It should not have been placed on the ballot until our Board completed their due diligence. SHAME ON THE BOARD AND THE BLIND LEMMING FOLLOWERS WHO SUPPORT IRRESPONSIBLE SPENDING. I guess now we know who the true tax-and-spend-at-any-expense liberals are.

The Loudoun Times-Mirror is an embarassment.  This is just a forum for ignorant Loudouners to complain about anything and everything.  Shut down these forums so we all don’t realize how clueless so many people are. 
Get a grip.  Our schools do a great job.  Take care of the kids and build the schools.  This should be a no-brainer.  Bonds are the cheapest way to build.  The schools will be built anyway; they need to be.

Wait until 2012, the new Board of Supervisors and School Board will have skin in the game at that time, unlike those stepping down. 

One year delay will not matter, but sneaking in spending of $173 Million has debt ramifications for the next 20 years.

Nice article today about LCPS in Leesburg Today. I’ll be voting yes.

@they come,

Trailers worked for quite a while at Loudoun Valley. I would suggest that a cost feasibility study be done to see which is cheaper:

a) Acquiring land, building and equipping brand news schools from scratch now with BORROWED MONEY. Take into account the interest paid on the bonds plus the opportunity cost of delaying/canceling other projects (like the Metro stations that are so near and dear to so many hearts)

b) Adding on to existing schools with permanent structures now with BORROWED MONEY. The same factors mentioned above need to be taken into account here too.

c) Using trailers as a temporary solution until part or all of the money can be saved to do “a” or “b” above with significantly smaller amounts of borrowed money or no borrowed money at all. (In this case, the future cost of constructing “a” or “b” needs to be taken into account, plus the cost of renting trailers, minus the interest saved, minus the value assigned to the opportunity cost of borrowing the money.)

No such analysis has been conducted, to my knowledge. All I’m asking for is a level-headed approach to doing this that takes EVERYTHING into account and chooses the LOWEST COST LONG TERM solution once all factors are taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that the lowest cost long term solution might not be the same as the lowest cost short term solution. But all factors, numbers, calculations, etc. should be clear and available to the public in any analysis. There should also be an easy way to determine the lowest cost short term solution using the formulas (in addition to the lowest cost long term solution). UNFORTUNATELY OUR BOARD DOES NOT SEE FIT TO PROVIDE SUCH ANALYSIS OR DETAILS TO THE PUBLIC. (If they have, please let me know as I’d really like to see it.)

Are people going to come to Loudoun County regardless of what we do? Certainly. But this does not mean that we should rush into things with our eyes wide shut chanting “build it, build it, build it”. There needs to be some give here, with the bigger long term solution in mind.

What does this mean? To me, this means that short term sacrifices MIGHT need to be made for sensible long term gains. For the next few years LCPS MIGHT have to relax its class size standards, MIGHT have to put up with using additional trailers, MIGHT have to plan to build fewer artificial turf football fields, MIGHT have to consider charging a higher athletic fee and admission fees to help cover the costs of building additional facilities, MIGHT have to do other things. And then again, they might not have to do any of this. With the way things are now WE SIMPLY JUST DON’T KNOW.

Dr. Hatrick SHOULD BE ASHAMED for keeping our Board in the dark on these types of things. Continued actions like this SHOULD lead to his dismissal. Our Board SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED to even consider placing this option on the ballot without having done its due diligence first. They are not exercising proper stewardship or leadership, and should be taken to task on this.

Is it too unreasonable to expect that our elected representatives actually ensure that the most cost effective solutions are presented to the public when talking about borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to build schools? I don’t think it is. In fact, I think it’s part of their jobs - it’s what they’re getting paid for.

I welcome any member of the Board to respond to this charge. I’m clearly stating here and now that you haven’t done your homework on this issue and as a result are doing the public a disservice. You are violating your obligation to serve the public trust.

Show us the studies. Show us the analysis. Show us the numbers. Please, please prove me wrong. If an adequate job has been done looking at all available options and taking all factors into consideration, I’ll gladly eat crow on this. I’d love to admit that I’m wrong here.

But until that day comes I just can’t see how any Loudoun resident who cares about fiscal constraint, responsible spending, setting a good example for our children, and not saddling current and future residents with undue burdens can in their right mind blindly vote in favor of this option. It’s simply irresponsible. (OK, I’ll get off my soap box now.)

Yes, the kids are coming and they need to go to school.  Nobody said they shouldn’t.  But there is a large number of Loudouners that think LCPS can spend significanly less than they do and should live within taxpayer means.  With the highest tax rate in the area, you would expect LCPS to be more cost-conscious and, when they buy more Promethean white boards, they show a blatant disregard for the hard work of the citizen-owners of this County and the taxes we pay to support them.

But therin is LCPS’s “in” with people’s heartstings.  They put a little kid face on their fiscal mismanagement so we buy into it.  But LCPS administrators have overplayed their hand and done this so many times that the games they are playing are boardly recognized.

The bottom line is LCPS needs more fiscal oversight and the current School Board does not provide it.

West Ender, your entire example leaves out the elephant in the corner - the kids are still coming, the school population growing. it’s not a matter of “wanting a lake house”. It’s a state mandated requirement to school these kids. And the School Board has policies about HOW that is done (class size, courses offered, level of equipment and facilities, etc.) that sets the bar for how good (or bad, or great!) LCPS is. And we know that the reputation is pretty high, which is a big driver in why Loudoun has grown so rapidly and in the manner it has. If the schools sucked, and there weren’t other things to attract people, growth would have been slower and doen with crappy subdivisions (see Broad Run Farms for examples of straight subdivision of the past). But it hasn’t - proximity to so many desireable things (Dulles airport, Potomac, interstates, nations capital, WOD, METRO, etc.) have made Loudoun valuable land, and thus, higher-end communities with ample amenities (ponds, pocket parks, trails and paths, playgrounds, pools and fitness centers) have been more the norm.

Bury your head and argue school system growth all you want, it’s not going to stop. I agree, it could be done with more constraint perhaps, but half-a**ing it creates a half-a** school system, whcih eventually will drag everything down a couple pegs. If you want that future, fine. I for one like what LCPS does for the County now, and in this instance, status quo is pretty good.

Folks, our overall county debt is now $1.1 BILLION.  We maxed out (and went over) our borrowing ratios last year but closed the year slightly below them.  If we tack on hundreds of millions for both the Metro and new schools, we will blow by our allowable ratios and start approaching a $2 BILLION debt.  Great.  The banks win.  The politicians can say they delivered.  The self-serving interests of LCPS administrators are placated….and the taxpayer loses.  We can’t have those high ratios of debt to income or that overall debt.

It used to be tax and spend.  Now it is spend, borrow, and tax.  With the levels of debt the County will incur will FORCE the BOS to increase the property tax rate even higher to meet the demands of the County’s bankers.  Loudoun County is getting squeezed and half the people here are oblivious to it.

New to Loudoun, and will be voting ‘no’ as well.

@Stability now!,

Absolutely. Everybody knows that the best time to spend millions of dollars we don’t actually have is during a recession. I mean the tax revenues coming in to the county now must be at an all-time high, right?

Think of things in a bit of a different light. Let’s say you want to buy a lake house for yourself to enjoy on the weekends. Your budget won’t support building it right now, and borrowing money to do it will have you mortgaged to your eyeballs or over it because you’re already borrowing too much money for your expensive cars and vacations. Would the responsible thing to do be (a) borrow the money anyway, or (b) wait for a little bit, save some money, and borrow less in the future to build the house?

Option B, of course. With its likely involvement in the Metro scheme, this county will already be spending more money we don’t have - further borrowing against its future. The reasonable thing to do is WAIT for another year and see what happens. Save some money - earmark it for the school system and put it away. (But don’t give it to LCPS to save… they have no restraint when it comes to money.)

Wait another year or two and THEN consider whether or not it is a good idea to build these schools. Research other options, too. I believe the article or another reader mentioned that it might be cheaper to build additions onto current buildings. Research that option. Research the cost of using trailers instead of school buildings. Figure out what’s CHEAPEST for the county residents in the long term (not just the short term) and then choose THAT option.

It’s called fiscal responsibility. It’s called intelligence. It’s called restraint. And it’s something that our present Board doesn’t seem to understand very well. (But what the heck? Let’s screw the taxpayers and charge ahead at full speed before we’ve examined all the options.)

Those who vote in favor of this bond support fiscal irresponsibility and recklessness.

“LC Teacher,” thank you for your clarification, and I stand corrected on some of my views. Your info is helpful for me when I am asked questions from potential teacher candidates. I am sure that you are a wonderful teacher, and have a great upcoming school year! :-)

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