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County to decide on $5 million in zero-interest bonds for Potomac Elementary renovations
The King George School Board this week agreed to forward a priority list to the county for potential renovations for Potomac Elementary School (PES).
It was announced on March 2 that King George was eligible for $5 million in zero-interest Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) funding.
The priority list was distributed at Monday’s meeting by Superintendent Candace Brown, saying it had been provided
by Potomac’s principal, Elizabeth Gordon.
The list was culled from a consultant’s assessment of the Potomac school building completed last August. The Board of Supervisors and School Board had been provided details on PES renovation options at a joint meeting at that time, with the School Board subsequently selecting the most costly of four options, estimated at $9.6 million.
Brown said this week’s priority list was prompted by a request from County Administrator Travis Quesenberry.
Quesenberry had asked the division to prioritize possible renovations for Potomac, since $5 million available from the state is not enough to cover any of the four options presented by a consultant from an assessment of the building conducted last year. The least expensive option was $7.4 million.
The list Brown provided to the School Board contained 11 items in priority order with no cost estimates attached. It was divided into three sections.
ADA, SAFETY AND BUILDING CODE
ADA, Safety and Building Code was the first heading containing three items listed under that, ADA & Code Compliance, Site and Building.
ADA refers to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires accessibility compliance to older public buildings whenever major renovations take place. In the meantime, the rule of “reasonable accommodation” applies.
Brown was questioned by Dennis Paulsen regarding cost estimates for those listed items. She said these first three were estimated at $651,525, adding, “You would have to hire an architect to do a design.”
She explained that under the terms of the bonds, they had six months to begin the project, adding she had understood from Quesenberry that contracting for architectural services would meet that requirement.
The next heading was Physical Plant. Items under Physical Plant were priority numbered 4 through 10 and contained: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, general building improvements, site improvements, interior finishes and specialties.
A big driver for renovation costs is due to the study’s recommendation to completely replace the heating-air condition-and ventilation (HVAC) systems, the plumbing system and fixtures and the electrical systems. The study estimates those costs alone at $4,169,340.
The final heading was listed as Program Related, which had an 11th item, Educational Program Upgrades.
School Board members were not supplied cost estimates for those additional items, nor were they requested.
Chairman Renee Parker directed that the list be sent to the county, adding that final decisions could not be made until they got “real numbers.”
The program related renovations would include the addition of either five or six new classrooms, along with some interior renovations to the 1950s section that would result in increasing the size of the art room and creating a larger computer lab in that section of the building.
Being placed last on the priority list means that those improvements are unlikely.
QUALIFIED SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BONDS
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) made the announcement March 2 saying the QSCBs are being issued by the Virginia Public School Authority on behalf of school divisions and localities.
The funding is available to the selected school divisions for specific projects as part of the final round of bond funding under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.
But the money is not a grant. It is a loan at zero percent interest that must be paid back. Supervisors had informed the School Board at another joint meeting on Nov. 30 that the county was at its debt limit and would have to wait a few years before it could afford to borrow the amount of funds desired to renovate Potomac.
The Board of Supervisors last fall had been provided a detailed presentation by its financial consultant, Davenport & Company LLC, on the effect of acceptance of QSCBs on the county’s debt ratio.
At the time, supervisors were not hopeful that the county would receive funding after reviewing the application. They were also reluctant to commit to increasing the county debt ratio at the time, but agreed to go forward with the no-risk application to decide whether to accept the loan funding if and when it became available.
Davenport’s David Rose told supervisors that because the funding would be only on the principal, it would save the county a significant amount of debt service compared to a loan at conventional rates of interest.
But since the money must be paid back, it could require a dedicated increase on the real estate tax rate of up to 1.5-cents.
It was also noted last fall that accepting the QSCBs would put the county over its 12 percent policy limit on debt service versus general government expenditures for a couple of upcoming fiscal years.
Those potential impacts are expected to be reviewed at an upcoming county board meeting prior to any formal acceptance of the QSCB loan/bonds.