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School Board, BoS to hold joint meeting next week

A joint meeting next week between the King George Board of Supervisors and the School Board is expected to center on money matters.
The joint meeting is scheduled to take place next Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. in the boardroom on the ground floor of the Revercomb Building, located behind the Courthouse on Route 3.
Both boards are planning to talk about the costs and the timing for three big-ticket projects requested by the School Board.
They may also discuss a joint vehicle maintenance facility for which Supervisors plan to purchase property on US 301.

Costs and timing for three current capital projects include the following:
• $9.6 million for renovations to Potomac Elementary School (PES) and additional costs for trailer rental while sections are being renovated;
• $1,775,475 for a new well, heating-ventilation-and-air conditioning system, and to refurbish the lecture room for conversion of the closed former middle school building to an intermediate school;  
• $2,250,566 in 2012-13 for startup costs and operating costs for the first-year of an intermediate school with $1,351,703 for annual, recurring operating costs every year after that;
• $3 million estimated for construction of a planned sports stadium under design to go next to King George High School.

COST REDUCTIONS
Another agenda item, this one requested by the Board of Supervisors, is to hear what the School Board and Superintendent Candace Brown have to say about cost reductions.
That item was suggested by Chairman Dale Sisson at a meeting earlier this month on Nov. 2.
Two supervisors, Sisson and Joe Grzeika, are on record as being concerned about county finances and School Board budgeting going forward in an economy that continues to forecast lower revenues.
Grzeika has continued to remind his three less frugal colleagues on the board that federal stimulus funding will go away for next fiscal year, 2011-12.
Those three are Cedell Brooks, John LoBuglio and James Mullen.
This past spring when school divisions around the state, as well as those in the area, were cutting positions and slashing budgets, those three board members lined up to significantly increase the School Board’s 2010-11 budget from $33.5 million to $34 million.
It is noteworthy that after a flurry of last-minute spending that took place immediately prior to the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year on June 30, the School Board still couldn’t spend down its smaller budget from last year.
The School Board ended up with a surplus of $686,427 at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Revenue from stimulus funding in the current fiscal year, 2010-11, that is expected to evaporate next year comes to more than a million dollars, some of which the state is using sleight of hand to provide basic aid to localities for school divisions.
When Sisson suggested a discussion on cost reductions at a meeting on Nov. 2, he said, “I think as we look at what we’re facing budget-wise, what’s being proposed here is a pretty significant operational budget increase. So I’d like to hear what cost reductions would be in the works to address such an increase.”
At last week’s meeting, Sisson again addressed his concerns about lower revenues in a slow economy in the upcoming budget year, with the latest forecasts provided at a recent Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) conference.
“The picture is not rosy, and it’s 2015 before we are looking at recovery. That’s what we are hearing from everyone about when there will be recovery,” Sisson said.
He added, “And still, then we don’t know what that recovery means. That’s the other challenge, I think. So we are going to have to plan on keeping the belt plenty tight and that’s a message that we heard over and over.”
At last week’s meeting, Grzeika also commented on the financial outlook.
“The budget for the remainder of this biennium and the next will be extremely challenging. The funds are just not there and the recovery from this recession will not be strong and it looks like it’s going to take a minimum of 3 to 5 years to feel the change.”

FUNDING SOURCES FOR SCHOOL PROJECTS     
Funding for the $9.6 million Potomac renovation project is uncertain at this time. Supervisors have applied for a no-interest loan to go toward Potomac Elementary School renovations.
There is no guarantee the project would qualify for all or some of the $10 million being requested through the state’s Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs).  And the county won’t be informed until later this winter or early spring 2011.
If the project qualifies for all or some QSCB money, even though interest-free, the county would still have to pay it back.
The loan would add to the county’s current debt load, which is basically maxed-out.
Supervisors would be obliged to come up with the payback money for the term of the loan, which would be expected to necessitate a real estate tax increase.
They would also have to deal with the issue of going against the county’s current debt policy.
The money for the proposed sports stadium is in-hand from a previous borrowing a couple years ago.
Regarding the former middle school, funding for the startup costs and repairs for that building’s conversion to an intermediate school are being eyed to come from a lease that school officials hope to get for renting the building to a contractor next year for Navy classroom training.
But annual operating costs for adding a sixth school online would still need to be discussed. Supervisors have been encouraging the division to identify cost savings from within its own budget.

Phyllis Cook
Staff reporter

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