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BoS and School Board, together again

 Stadium and money matters on agenda
The King George Board of Supervisors and the School Board held a joint meeting last week on Nov. 30, primarily to discuss money matters.
The money discussion was often at cross purposes.  
All members of both boards were present, except for Supervisor Cedell Brooks, who is believed to remain hospitalized since Nov. 22, after reportedly having one or more strokes, with no news on his condition being made public.
County Administrator Travis Quesenberry and Division Superintendent Candace Brown were also present at the discussion table last Tuesday, along with Deputy County Administrator/Director of Finance Donita Harper.  Assistant Superintendent Dick Roberts was also at the meeting, but viewed it from the audience instead of having a seat at the discussion table.
There were four items on the agenda, with a presentation of the design of a planned sports stadium at the top of the list. Everyone liked the stadium design. With the bulk of the estimated $3,890,000 for construction already set aside by the county, there was little disagreement.  (See related article elsewhere in this issue.)
But it was downhill after that, when talk turned to two unfunded capital requests from the School Board, which also include a proposal to increase yearly operating costs beginning in 2012.
The topic of “cost reductions” was tossed into the middle of those agenda items by supervisors for good measure.
School Board members asked what supervisors had up their sleeves to continue to fund the school division in the manner to which it has become accustomed.
But instead, supervisors informed the School Board that if lower revenue predictions come true, the division may have to address lower expectations and service provision.

School Board member Renee Parker started the discussion on opening the closed former middle school as an intermediate school beginning in 2012-13.
Parker referred to documents the School Board had directed Brown to provide to county supervisors as “read-aheads.”
But supervisors hadn’t read ahead because they didn’t receive an educational analysis by the division, a cost sheet indicating startup and annual operating costs, nor a capacity analysis by School Board member Mike Rose. These three documents are posted online at www.journalpress.com.
Brown admitted she’d only sent the county a capacity analysis by former School Board member Payne Kilbourn. Supervisors expressed no interest in that, which had already been presented to them at a joint meeting in October 2008.
Undeterred, Parker pushed Kilbourn’s contention that the division had a 3 percent annual enrollment increase, which was pooh-poohed by Supervisor Chairman Dale Sisson.
“I haven’t seen anything that really shows that your enrollment projections are going to come to fruition, and how your enrollment has increased, that backs up the 3 percent growth in enrollment over that time.”
About starting an intermediate school, Sisson said, “Even if I think it’s the best idea in the world, why we have #3 on here, is the cost reduction piece. And I’m telling you, the revenue situation is not pretty, and won’t be for at least five years.”
On the topic, Supervisor Joe Grzeika stated, “We’re not going to come up with all that money.” He added. “So, adding this right now is not my top priority.”
Nonetheless, School Board members pursued making the obvious case that using the former middle school for two grades would be cheaper than building a new elementary school. There was no argument, but the School Board seemed compelled to keep asking for funding approval.

Rose said he would e-mail his capacity analysis out to supervisors. He said the proposal to place fifth and sixth grades at the former middle school would require the use of “about three trailers.” Brown has said four trailers would be needed.
That would be one less trailer than currently in use in the division.
But initiating the intermediate school plan would incur costs of $2,250,566 in 2012-13 for startup and operating costs for the first-year of an intermediate school with $1,351,703 estimated for annual, recurring operating costs every year after that.
Supervisors don’t appear to see an urgency to open a sixth school until the five operating schools are closer to their enrollment capacities.
Also, what no one from the division has yet addressed is why there are currently five trailers at King George Elementary School (KGES), when Rose said his capacity analysis indicates that without the trailers the school would be at about 95 percent capacity.  
His capacity analysis indicates that with the trailers, KGES is at 83 percent of capacity.
His other capacity numbers indicate that King George High School is at 77 percent capacity, King George Middle is at 76 percent of its capacity, Potomac Elementary is at 86 of its capacity and Sealston Elementary is also at 86 percent capacity.

On the topic of cost reductions, School Board member Dennis Paulsen turned the question around, saying, “We know the coming year is going to be a horrendous year. We all understand that, so we are planning for the future. What are the plans for the county for the future to try to meet our needs?”
Grzeika said an updated Capital Improvement Program (CIP) will be a driver for deciding on when to fund long-term projects, saying they would look at the CIP after they get revenue projections.
“We are pretty much at debt capacity,” Grzeika added.
Sisson also responded to Paulsen, saying, “If revenues are down, then I think you will have to address your service provision. That’s the bottom line. If it ends up going the way we see that it might go, we are going to have address expectations and the services provided.”

The last agenda item was the School Board’s request for a renovation option to Potomac Elementary that would cost about $9.6 million.
Chairman Lynn Pardee picked up on the idea that supervisors are not prepared to take on more county debt at this time, asking, “I’m not clear on an answer for Potomac. Is it out of the question? Are you saying you can’t do that?”
Grzeika stated, “We have to take a look and see where the money would come from. We have not identified a source of funding.”
Pardee stated, “I see the beautiful buildings down the street here, the state-of-the-art animal shelter and then I’ve been in Potomac Elementary School —”
Grzeika queried, “Are you saying we shouldn’t have built that?
Pardee said she was not suggesting that. She added, “I’m just saying you’ve got state-of-the-art new facilities that you found some money to take care of. But we have an elementary school that houses our children, the children of this community, and we can’t find any money to improve that facility to help what they’re doing and where they attend every day?”
Sisson responded, saying, “I think, in fairness, you’ve got to compare the overall investment in the educational facilities relative to the other construction that’s going on.”
Pardee answered, “No, I don’t need to do that.”
Sisson explained, saying, “Well that’s up to you, Lynn. But I think that’s certainly how we compare it out. When we look at the overall budget, the vast majority of our infrastructure investment has gone into educational facilities. You’ve got $42 million for a high school and $18 million for Sealston, and I’m not saying that shouldn’t be the case, it should be. But because we’ve been able to do some other things as well, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do those and should only do education. Or just because fiscally we can do that, we should be able to do everything else. Our focus has been on upgrading our educational infrastructure.
“We are talking about a $3 million football stadium, where we just spent under $2 million for that animal shelter and about $7.8 million for a 40,000 square foot Sheriff’s office facility that has been operating out of this courthouse for forever. So, I think, when you really do that comparison, the real dollars that have gone to the educational side have been substantial. Has it addressed all the needs that we have from the schools?  From my perspective, I don’t think so, but from a realistic viewpoint, when you really compare what’s been invested on that side, you’ll see it.”
Pardee later said of Potomac, “That building is slightly inferior from the other buildings and those changes would be very positive for the students.  I know we have Fire & Rescue, animal shelter and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, and I know they are all important. But those people running those, and employed in those, they are all adults. And that does change it a little bit. Should an adult have to sit in a cold room to type on a computer? No, but they can put a shirt on. But should a child sit in a classroom that doesn’t have access to a computer when they need that in this day and age to be competitive? Then it is slightly different. So keep that in mind that the needs are different for the children than they are for those adults.”

Find out MORE:
1. Educational analysis by the division -- intermediate presentation.PPT
2. Cost sheet, including startup and annual operating costs -- SB -Copy of INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL COSTS 10 10.xls
3. Capacity analysis by School Board member Mike Rose  -- School Capacity Analysis.PDF


Phyllis Cook
Staff reporter

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